blurred identity .

I’ve written and re-written this blog several times over the last five weeks. You see, when I write on here, I write with God. So when God feels absent from me, I struggle to articulate what is on my heart. I still believe that His Spirit whispers gently to me, but the process of hearing all the things He has to say drags out a little longer than usual. As I begin writing this blog for the last time, I am laying in bed, on the farm and hours away from anyone I know. Over the course of three days, I lost all identity and found myself face to face with my Creator. What would come from this encounter?

I arrived at the farm a little after 11pm on that Friday night. Going to the farm always feels like going home, it’s the place where God without fail makes Himself known to me each time. There’s a room in the house that has been named as my own, it’s kept open for me and no-one uses it while I’m away. However, arriving home to the farm that night felt different to how it had on any previous occasion; There was an absence and as I closed my bedroom door, I caught my reflection in the mirror. Who was she? The girl staring back at me?

There are answers that we search for when our worlds fall apart. If we are wise, we seek out God, but sometimes, even in our wisdom, we seek answers above Him. This is where I fell short. As I sat in the sheering shed on Sunday morning I read a post that Ann Voskamp had shared to her instagram page only hours earlier. The post read: 

“How would understanding the reason for suffering matter more than knowing God Himself stands with us in it? If we had a God small enough to understand, how could He be a great enough God to stand with us against all that we face?”

Ann Voskamp (06.03.2022)

I pondered this concept as I looked out across the dry and dusty paddocks. The land around me stretched for miles. I was last on the in farm in October and the crops have since been harvested; what was once endless fields of green, was now nothing more than a dry desert of sticks and carcasses. Heaviness tugged on my heart as I thought of how my relationship with God had changed in that same way; My faith, once deep-rooted, thriving, strong and healthy, now left thirsting for more than the dry dust upon which I lay, among the carcasses of my own betrayal. Was I nothing more than alike with this godforsaken land? 

The magic that once rested upon the farm, the ways in which God revealed Himself to me there, had all vanished and all that was left behind was a bittersweet reminder of what once was. Had He too, walked away and given up? No. Surely not, because isn’t the very essence of what Ann wrote, exactly what T told me as we sat by the foreshore for coffee back in January? Where did my faith go in my period of grief and questioning? 

It was only then, sitting in the sheering shed, that I realised it was within the same time period of grief, coffee and questioning, that I fell subject to a search for everything other than my Father. I became consumed by my longing for answers and explanations, so consumed that I lost sight of the only One I needed more. It was all within that same time frame that I became the one to walk away and give up. I didn’t realise this tragedy until that Sunday morning on the farm, when reading Ann’s questions felt all too much like dejavu. 

It recently surpassed 500 days since I chose God, since I returned my heart to Him and made Him my Home. I question to you now; Would you understand the magnitude of who God is, if I told you that over the last 500 days, God has rewritten upon my heart what it means to be in relationship with Him? Would you be able to grasp how deep God had to reach down into my very core, in order to grab hold of and undo the roots that have become so entrenched into who I am and what I have grown to believe?

“If you sin too much, God will leave you”, “If you keep apologising but don’t become a better daughter, God will stop listening”, “If you’re not good enough, God will give up on you”, “But most of all Christelle, if you do these things, God will stop loving you”.

– My Parents.

Imagine for a moment that you are 3 years old, for the first time you are beginning to grasp the concept of this higher figure and as time passes, those four warnings above become something drilled into you everyday until you’re 19 years old and you decide that God doesn’t exist anymore. Why? Because the pain of Him not exisiting outweighs the pain that comes from questioning how He can exist without love, without forgiveness, without patience, without grace and without relationship.

That was the God painted to me over the course of my childhood. I shudder; A memory flashes before my eyes and I see it now as if for the first time [disclaimer for the vulnerability attached to sharing this memory].

Eight years old. A blow up mattress. A foreign home that your aunt and uncle just moved into. It’s late at night and the shadow of your 24 year old cousin leaves your doorway as he locks himself in the room next to you. Your aunt has said goodnight, leaving only your uncle left.

… I close my eyes, in the remembering …

And then there she is. Sitting on the floor in the corner of a dark room. Red stained between her legs. Silent tears that seep into the nothingness. The only thing on her mind: “Another sin, my parents were right, God can’t love me now”.

Does your heart not break? That was only the beginning of what would become something almost too familiar, that by the time such a sin takes place yet again at the end of 2019; that 8 year old girl, now 19, finally gives up on the idea of a relationship with God. 

She is turning 22 now and that girl is me. As I walked through the godforsaken fields across the farm, I felt a war waging within me; A battle between flesh and spirit. God is fighting for me, but in my present weakness, I am, what some might refer to as an ‘easy target’ for the enemy. 

Throughout God’s word, He makes it known to us that our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). In Romans 3:23 we read that surely all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. No sin is greater or lesser than another, all sin is equal; this is something I am yet to grasp or understand.

Romans 7:18 says; “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” That very verse captures quite accurately where I have been in my heart. I want to pursue God, I have wanted to seek Him and Him alone. However, I tried to do it on my own and realised that within myself I do not have the ability to carry out my hearts desires [a sole pursuit of my Father]. 

What I am yet to tell you, is the ways in which my flesh has failed me, the ways in which I searched for all that was not God and the ways in which I sought to numb the emotions I felt. What happened in the hours that lead to that first night on the farm?

There’s a level of vulnerability that comes with being honest and what I often forget is that God is there with us, He knows everything and if He already knows, yet He still loves me, then isn’t that all that matters? I’m moving past the shame because that isn’t what this is about, this is about God and how even though my identity became blurred; I will find it again within Him.

They say that you seek out in a man, the same attributes as your father or those whom played a significant role in your upbringing. I never thought that to be true, however, now I find myself questioning if perhaps there are similarities to be drawn between men like my father, uncle or cousin, and the other men who have taken advantage of me over the years. 

In my desperation to numb the emotions of all that has taken place over the past few months, I gave up my search for answers, and instead sought out different avenues that I thought might bring release. How? By exposing myself to harm in every way other than that of a flame or blade. 

The night my father beat me and abused me, before physically throwing me onto the pavement outside the family home, that was the third night in the span of merely five days. I drove to the riverside and laid in the middle of the road. Praying a car would numb the burning inside of me. Three out of five nights last week was spent in my car, riverside, following an abuse of power and control.

The time my instinct trauma response turned me into that scared deer in the corner of a room and took me back to past places I have tried to forget, was the time I stupidly crushed and sniffed a stash of quetiapine (Don’t worry, I’m shaking my head at myself too). Praying for the memories to fade away.

I had sex seven times over the long weekend, different men, none known to me and none all too caring either. They wanted the high, I wanted the numbness. Some exchanges passed quickly, without any red flags. Others, I wasn’t so lucky. None were enjoyable in the slightest, in fact I found myself physically ill throughout each session; not once reaching a peak of any kind.

Friday nights encounter was the one that tipped me off the edge. He was too much like the other men in my life. It was all about the power for him. Taking off the condom because ‘he couldn’t finish’ with it on, despite my specific request for safety. Pressing my body down in the most violent of ways, just to make it known that he was in charge. Fingers around my throat, his nails dug into the flesh of my neck as he continually tightened his grip and pushed me downward. Slapping me violently, whilst biting and hurting me in ways that crossed all my boundaries. There I layed beneath him until he finished, my body limp and my mind in a place far away from the present. Praying for it to be over.

I got away that Friday night. As I reached my car, the alcohol was wearing off and it was too sore to move. But I had to move. I needed to move because I needed to escape. As I opened another drink, I hopped behind the wheel and sped down the dirt road. Tears clouded my view and hitting 130kph, I took a blind corner and my car slammed into a ditch. I felt around for my phone in the dark, locating it on the floor in a corner, I turned it on. A text from T; ‘Hope you’re ok?’. My stomach fell as a sudden wave of regret washed over me as I remembered that I’d already cancelled my breakfast with T, because standing on the side of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, blood running down my legs and my heart dragging on the floor, seeing someone safe was all I wanted.

Time passed and by 11.30pm I had gotten my car back on the road and had made it back to the farm. In the shower I washed my body. Left arm. Right arm. Chest. Stomach. Hands. Neck. I worked my way through each area of my body, almost ritualistically, as I had learned to do over the years; Careful not to make a mistake, otherwise I’d have to begin all over again. The washing afterward was always the part that mattered most, it was the moment that my mind would numbly take over and I wouldn’t need to think or feel. I bled and pained that night. And on my way to climb into bed, I closed my door, catching a glimpse of someone unknown to me. Where was my identity now?

On Saturday I wandered the land around the farm. For the first five hours of my day I walked from dam to dam, across the paddocks, often sitting down to read whilst the dog swam or dug holes. As I walked I came across a section of ground that had shattered. I reflected upon the process that would have taken place in order for the ground to appear as it did. You see, at some stage the ground would have been whole, it would have been smooth and strong. As time passed, I imagine rains would have fallen and the ground would have drawn moisture. Lastly as the moisture dried, so did the ground, only this time the ground dried into pieces; shattered after the storms. 

It’s uncanny really, the resemblance between God’s people and the ground. We live in a fallen world. We were born free of sin, whole and pure in faith. As we grow we are exposed to the harshness of the world around us, the brutalness of storms and as the rains fall upon us [any forms of hardship or trauma], we soak up that hurt and our flesh becomes us. In time we then too, become like the dried and shattered earth, our faith no longer whole and our lives an image of brokenness. 

But wait.. there is hope!

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:

The old has gone, the new is here!”

2 corinthians 5:17

I have heard the Bible being described as a ‘guide’ for our lives. Recently in church we learned about the concept of ancient paths, thus being the concept of looking back over the lives of those in the Bible and learning from their stories; Following the ancient paths that God outlined throughout His word. 

God continues to use His word as a means of not only revealing Himself to me, but as a way of installing hope and reassurance. I do not like who I am. I do not recognise the reflection in the mirror before me. I do not know who I have become. My identity is blurred and it is no longer bound by my faith in my Father. Why?

What causes our faith to waiver? What causes us to feel distant from God? 

In prayer I asked these questions. The answer my heart received was: ‘a shift’.

Walking down Prideaux on a recent afternoon, I found myself staring into the clouds to see the smallest nest, swaying violently in the tallest tree. How could something so fragile, withstand such storms? In my last post earlier this year, I said that it felt as if the slightest shift would cause my foundation crack and everything would begin to fall apart. Since then, the winds have blown and for a while amidst the storm, no matter how hard I fought to keep God first, I lost sight of Him in the heaviness. 

You see, the way that the slightest shift in foundation can cause a magnitude earthquake. Or how the slightest shift in measurement for construction can cause the most detrimental effects. In that same way, when our focus shifts even the slightest bit away from God; everything changes. Here we immediately shift ourselves out of His presence, and even though God never leaves, we dangerously begin to feel as if He has.

Over the last month or two since that afternoon along Prideaux, I have reflected upon this concept of shift. And as God has continued to reveal new aspects to me, I’ve begun to string together times over the years where I have allowed these shifts to take control of my life. Shifts don’t even have to be huge! Just think about it, the slightest of shifts in life can sometimes have the largest of impacts. I mean, the slightest shift in vibrational frequency can shatter glass., the slightest shift in even just one degree, can alter a ships course of direction. I’ve seen this recently in my own life; relapse, self destruction in the form of sex and alcohol, abuse and pain. Why? All because of a shift in my faith; my questioning and doubt. 

My heart broke on the farm, as I realised that whilst my faith had shifted, my identity had blurred, at that same time, I had spent the last two months trapped in a space where fighting to live took more effort than the latter. There’s almost nothing more heartbreaking than realising that you’re spending every day fighting to learn how to want to live, rather than actually wanting to live or trying to die.

Is this where the hope comes in?

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that in God, we are a new creation. You see, God is always at work within us. He is never done writing our stories. Even when I chose to allow men to use my body, God was still there; His heart bled out with my own and He mourned with me and for me, but He never left me and He never walked away from me. Forgive me, but I think my parents were wrong: God doesn’t give up and leave me if I sin too many times. I walked past thousands of small rocks that has washed up after the rains, looking at them I felt God liken them to my sins and all the ways in which I fall short of deserving His relationship, love, forgiveness and grace. All the things my parents said I would never have access to in my relationship with God, has been given to me ever so freely, by Himself. Standing there on the farm, looking at those rocks, I knew that God would sift through each and every dirty and ugly thousandth rock, just to be in relationship with me. I knew that there was nothing I could do, or not do, in order to shift His loving gaze from me. He stays, God always stays.

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb,

    Before you were born I set you apart.”

Jeremiah 1:5

My soul finds rest in the knowledge that my Father knew me before I was born, He set me apart, He had a plan and a purpose for my life, He knew all that would transpire throughout my journey.. and you know what? He still formed me and created me in His image. 

‘Before you were born, I set you apart’… I look around, as I conclude this post tonight and my life is in the process of being uprooted. Despite anything that has happened to me, in the past, or even just in the last week, despite all of that, God still wants me. I can not comprehend why, but I know that He does want me and He still has a plan for me. The season I have been amidst over recent months has been a season of darkness, of grief and mourning; But behold, God is bringing me into a new season, one of uprooting and planting. God is drawing me out of the darkness and He is beckoning me toward His light, His ‘new thing’. One of my many 19s that God has given me was Isaiah 43:19 where He says; ‘Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness, and I will make rivers in the desert’. God is creating a new life for me, He is giving me a new identity within Himself and I am learning how to make Him my Home. In both a spiritual and physical way, God is planting me in new faith, in a new town and He is making a new thing. I will spring forth and flourish in Him. I am unable to fathom how God managed to pull all the strings that He did, but He truely has made a way and a river in the wilderness.. Ann releases a new book this month; “WayMaker”.. I wasn’t going to buy it but I think now I might. God is so good to me and I have no doubt in His truth that He speaks over me is true, and I have no doubt that He will keep His promises to me.. He has a plan, a purpose, He will give me what I need to make it through (especially when things fall apart), He will carry me when my feet can not walk, He will provide for me and comfort me, He will protect the relationships I hold dear to my heart, He will guide me and He will never leave me. All I need to do? A whole-hearted pursuit, without the doubt and questioning.

I sometimes fear the loss of my identity, the blurred confusion of who I am and the things I have done.. Yet, if I close my eyes, I can feel the gentle beckoning of my Father:

“Come near My Child, I see who you are underneath your brokenness, and I still call you ‘My Beloved’, I still love you all the same.”

-c x (09.03.2022).

 

and even still, He meets me .

I once wrote that there was something beautiful about picking up your broken heart and venturing to sit by the riverside with God. I did this on Tuesday, and as the rain collided with the tears rolling down my bruised cheek, my heart stood to plead only one question: what happens when it feels like the One you sacrificed everything to be with, the One who promised to always be there, is no longer there?

When we strip the word grief back to its roots of origin, it translates to the Latin word ‘Luctus’; meaning to mourn. Lutus derives from word Lūgeō. I opened Wikipedia to find the definition and origin of Lūgeō, I learnt that it’s verb is Lament and was taken back to see that beneath it was quoted: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”.

God devoted an entire book in the Bible to the concept of grief: Lamentations. In His word, God tells us that those who mourn will be comforted, He titles them as blessed. I sometimes still struggle to comprehend how God could dare to call the suffering, ‘blessed’, or how those that suffer could be called to praise God in their suffering — But then again isn’t that what it means to suffer well? I’m smiling now because even though I really do wonder, I also deep down know that if for any reason the suffering could be called blessed, or called to praise, it is because God is with them; He is always with us. The book of Lamentations is compiled of a series of grief driven poems, the book was written by Jeremiah during a time where the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. During this period, the people of Jerusalem lived in a state of lament, of grief and sorrow; they mourned the loss of their home. In my own grief I too have mourned the loss of my home. But how does the lament of those in Jerusalem, compare to my own? Both our lament is driven from the displacement of our home.

During my final hospital admission God revealed to me that He is my home; ‘Abide in me, and I in you’ [John 15:4]. Whilst the grief of those in Jerusalem was real, their grief derived from a mourning for the loss of their city, their home.. I can’t help but wonder if the book of Lamentations would still look the same if those people had found their home in God alone? Where has my home been? Upon an almost cruel conviction and inner critique, I am ashamed to admit that my home has strayed from my Father. They say that home is where the heart is, but my heart has been unevenly poured into all the wrong places. I have poured my heart in the idea of what I thought my life should be like in this present season. I have poured it into the direction in which I planned for my journey to follow, into the relationships I’d hoped to invest in, into the career and future I am pursuing. Somewhere along the lines I began to divide pieces of my heart into everything other than God alone. Is this the deriving point of my grief; my lament? Would my own story look different if I too, found my pursuit and my home in God alone?

Tuesday was the day that my bottled up grief hit me like a tidal wave. I had barely been afloat over the recent two weeks but between Tuesday and Wednesday, God taught me what it truely meant to trust Him; especially when my feet couldn’t stand. I have often referred to the concept of God calling me out into deeper waters, into oceans of uncertainty; into a deepness where I am left with no option other than to rely solely upon Him. I think here of the song ‘Oceans’, its lyrics reading: ‘You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where my feet my fail, here I find You in the mystery, my soul will rest in Your embrace’. Is this not what God has done for me?

I cried my way through Tuesday; at my work desk, during my lunch break, shopping at Woolworths, I even cancelled my Pilates class because by the time the day drew toward an end, I wasn’t emotionally able to hold myself together any longer. My grief had reached a point where it began to rule over all aspects of my life. You see, that’s the thing about grief.. when we don’t allow the undercurrent to wash us up at the foot of the cross, we quickly find ourselves drowning no matter where we turn. My heart breaks at the awareness of the point to which my grief has driven me; no matter how hard I have fought to draw nearer to God, I have felt so far from Him, trapped and alone. I fear that the progress and miracles God has done within me, are at jeopardy because of how I am desperately trying to cope with my deep lament. But T was right when she told me that my recovery is still going well, I am still making progress and God is still in control; these are things I need to remind myself of more frequently and more consciously within my grief.

On Tuesday evening I put my body in my car and found myself at the beach. To this day, I don’t know how I got there but I now understand why I did. Upon arrival the skies were darkening and fully clothed, I began to wade out into the ocean. I quickly found myself swallowed by the one thing that terrified me the most; swallowed by the ocean, by my lament. Yet deeper I wandered, in search of something unknown to me, but met by Someone so known to me.

And then with all my might, I ran. I ran against the current, against the naturally engrained flow of the ocean and in that moment, I was a child running away from the world. I ran from my grief, from my past and present trauma, I ran from my relationships and the rawness of all God was doing within me, from my anxieties and shame; I was running from everything and only once I stopped, did I realise that I had run straight into the embrace of my Father. My body had come to a halt, now drenched, in the pouring rain I stood, stok styf, with my bare feet planted in the sand. I felt an anxiety arise within me as I was unable to see through the murky waters, but then I heard His gentle whisper: ‘be still my child, and know that I am God’. I closed my eyes and what I physically felt beneath me, left me mute; unable to speak or comprehend what I had encountered, or perhaps rather Who I had encountered. In the most tangible and profound way, I had encountered the undercurrent and there, I encountered my Father. With my own flesh, I experienced how the waves crashed over one another, the strongest current flowing onto the shore and underneath the gentle current pushing its way back into the sea; back into the unconditional love of my Father. My heart broke because standing there, my spirit was met with all I had been unconsciously searching for within my period of deep grief: a gentle beckoning toward my Father, toward the undercurrent that would lead me through my deep lament and into His unconditional love. I’m covered in goosebumps and as I write this, my heart physically pulls with a longing for more of my Father.

I remained in the ocean as the skies darkened even more and as I looked to the heavens, I saw only clouds of grey; thunder and storm. The waves around me nearly tripled in height and strength, turning from ripples to white capped giants, each one threatening to pull me under. Inside I felt my heart begin to withdraw from the encounter with my Father, in feelings of doubt and betrayal my grief began to take hold of my heart once again. As I wrestled with the raging sea, I began to question: Where was the sunset? Where was the warmth of my Fathers love for me? Where was His provision? Where was the prosper promised to me? Where was He amidst my lament? Where was He within my brutal storm? As I went under, grief stung the rawness of my heart, the way salty waters sting an open wound.

In a loving but awe provoking and authoritative wrath, God challenged my questioning; who was I to dare question my Fathers presence? Almost immediately He reminded me of a movie I watched years ago: “Unconditional”. Within the movie there’s a story told about a bird who learns to take a walk on the clouds. This little bird loved to fly but during his first winter, he had barely learned to use his wings. It rained all day and all night, the wind howled and he cried to his mother, asking why God gave the storms power to take away the sun. His mother told him that the answer to all his questions was waiting for him, just beyond the brutal storms; he just needed to be brave enough to venture out into the unknown, to take a walk on the clouds. One night the little bird flew out into the biggest storm he’d ever seen, he feared the winds would tear him apart but still he flew in search of answers. He was about to give up and turn around, when it happened; he flew through the clouds and there it was: the sun, more beautiful than ever. And in that moment it all became clear to him; no storm could take the sun away, the sun was always shining, it was as constant as his mother’s love. You see, whilst the skies above me physically and metaphorically raged with a brutal storm, behind them, nothing could stop God’s presence and light. The sun still set regardless of whether I could see it or not. In this same way, regardless of my brutal lament, no amount of grief can stop God from being there for me, nothing could remove His love for me; it’s as constant as the sun that rises and sets each day.

Here I am vaguely remined a bible verse that reads along those same lines. I turned to google and wasn’t prepared for the verse God showed me; “And God promises that with each morning sunrise, He offers mercies anew and love unfailing” Lamentations 3:22-23. I found myself so taken back by the fact that the verse came from Lamentations, even the people of Jerusalem, in their grief were reminded of the consistency of God’s love and presence.

As I stood in the waves, I pondered what God was telling me and He reminded of a conversation we had not too long ago. I remember trying to take a photo of the sunset and being frustrated by the photo not perfectly capturing the beauty and awe of the colours. In my frustration I felt God liken Himself to the sunset; because in the same ways that no photo could perfectly depict the beauty of the sunset, so no words can articulate or depict the fullness of God’s beauty. Is God not like the sunset? Is His creation not a reflection of His image? There are no words deep enough or profound enough to describe who He is or to accurately retell an encounter with Him.

I cried the whole way home from the beach, reaching out for prayer and wrestling between wanting to be both near to God but also as far away as I could be in shame. Grief has a way of isolating its victims, convincing them that they deserve to feel the hurt alone and enslaving them to a cycle of lament and misery. That night I didn’t sleep, I tossed and turned, pacing up and down my room in distress. Before I knew it, my alarm was going off for Pilates and honestly, the last thing I felt capable of doing was pulling myself together enough to go to the studio. I tried to hide throughout the session and realised that whilst my body was there, my mind and heart were still on the battlefield. At the end all I wanted to do was crawl in a ball for the remainder of the day, but God had other plans for me; He had more to say and over the rest of the day, He would continue to find ways to speak to me in direct answer to my hearts plea: an unplanned coffee with my loved one, a hike by the riverside, an email out of the blue, gentle whispers and conversations that only He could have with me.

During this period of grief, God has been stripping me back down to a state of raw vulnerability and dependency upon Him. My heart ached on Wednesday until then, none of my feelings had been said aloud. Over the last two months I have endeavoured to give God everything, I sacrificed everything I held dear to me and I laid it all on the line for Him. All my decisions were made so that He could become everything for me, so that my alignment with God would place Him at the centre. Because when all else is stripped away, it is He that remains. Yet here I have been, in a deep lament, broken and confused. I struggle to understand. Why has God been allowing me to become so raw again? Why has He been stripping away everything once again? Have we not been through this process enough times? Doesn’t He understand my pain? You see, the more I have tried to understand God, the less I have been able to make sense of the shattered pieces around me.

Throughout Wednesday God ever so gently convicted my heart with a sense of authority. What He does and what He allows, is not for me to understand. He is not for me to understand and nor is His plan for me. My only job is to love and trust Him, nothing more and nothing less. I was asked who would want to worship a God that they understood? Would understanding not immediately remove all the awe and wonder of who God is? How could we marvel at our Creator if we no longer wondered about Him? One of my biggest challenges in my faith, is overcoming my need to know and understand. My heart thought that it had everything figured out, I thought that once God was first, everything else would fall into place. However, I am beginning to realise that I lost sight of the fact that yes, everything will fall into place, but it would fall into place within God’s timing and it may not always look the way I anticipated it would; But this doesn’t mean that God’s abandoned me or changed His mind.

I’ve always been remined that the relationship I have with God is the one that matters most, anything more than that is overflow and to be counted as a blessing. I have needed to learn that yes, I did sacrifice everything to gain God, but He doesn’t owe me anything in return. Somewhere along the line I created this image of how I thought things would look; my recovery, my career, my life, and most of all, my relationships. But this is where the seeds of grief were first planted; where I began to place my heart, my home and my hope in things that I thought I deserved, things that I thought God would bless me with or that I thought He ‘owed’ me. Do you see how I unknowingly set myself up for grief?

The reality is that I do not have the right to write my own story, I can not write my healing into existence, I can not write my relationships into restoration; I just can’t. Only God can write my story, He is the only One who knows my beginning and my end. What I see is so vastly small, in comparison to what God sees. In my grief I see only mess and confusion, heartbreak and trauma… But God sees beauty, He sees healing and unconditional love; He sees the bigger picture. This concept was recently best likened to embroidery; In life we often fixate on the mess of threads underneath, we are unable to stand back far enough to see the view from the top, the finished masterpiece. God is writing and interweaving our stories and threads into a work of art, into a life that reflects His majesty. Who am I to try change my story? To conjure up plans of what I longed for? Who am I to question? I’ll say it again: There is no need for me to spend the hours of my days, trying to figure out what God is doing… All I need to do, is spend the hours of my day pursuing and falling in love with Him; especially in my deep lament.

As I drove home from the riverside recently, I had worship music on shuffle and God played a new song that sang; “You’re still God in the waiting, You’re still God in the storm, You’re still God in the silence, You’re still God when it’s hard”. My heart didn’t know how deeply those words would penetrate through to my core rawness; because no matter what, He is still God.

In my grief I have felt so overwhelmed because I wish my problems were simple. I wish that they didn’t extend past having to only navigate my treating team, or the loss of well loved friendships, or past and present trauma, or the impact on my recovery. However no matter how hard I try to change things, I’m painfully aware that my lament extends so much further than that. I’m grieving for more than I can find words to describe. On Wednesday I tried hard to find the courage to speak over coffee, about even just some of my deeper mourning but I couldn’t even muster the strength to go to those places in my mind; let alone to find a ways to articulate.

I have learned how to sit with the silence. I have learned how to sit in faith on the battlefield, believing wholeheartedly that no matter how alone I felt, I was never alone. God has stretched and pulled me in all directions, He has moulded and shaped me into His hands and His feet; but He is not done yet. The painful truth is that He will never be done, there will always continue to be periods of deep grief, of lament that engulfs and drowns everything in it’s path. But it’s there, in the pits of the battlefield that God meets us. He does show up Christelle, He shows up, each and every time. I need to hear that, my Father consistently whispers those words to me until His voice is a bellowing echo through my being; ‘I show up my Child, I show up, each and every time’. God meets us where we are. Whether that’s taken in a physical manner, or an emotional/spiritual manner. We can be in any state of mind and regardless, He will meet us there. It’s this truth, that I know I sometimes lose sight of.

As I sat in the rain on Tuesday, I felt a like a poppy; as have I throughout this period of grief. As I smelt the smell of rain, so fragile and faint, I recognised within myself a heightened sensitivity: something so fragile that even the slightest flicker of touch, might cause a total unravelling. I haven’t been a strong poppy, I have waivered and crumbled, I have become bruised and wilted. Over these last few days my Father has been teaching me how to plant my roots within Himself, how to allow the waters that drown me to instead water and nourish my faith in Him. Because whilst yes, my grief is real, I am still able to find comfort in the shelter of my Fathers arms; my home. I don’t need to carry my grief alone; the grief for my life and my childhood, for past and current traumas, for my circumstances and self, for my dreams and hopes, for relationships and connection; this grief can be shared with the One who loves me unconditionally. Like the people in Jerusalem, so I too can find peace in knowing that my Father is as consistent as the sun that continues to rise and set, His love will never fail me: He will never fail me.

Despite all that God had blessed me with on Wednesday, I still cried myself to sleep that night but I wasn’t alone. I grasped at straws to hold onto a hope that God with there with me, that people who loved me were praying alongside me. God had given me the answers to my hearts plea, yet my grief remained. You see, just because God is there and because He had blessed me with relationship, reassurance, insight and truths, it doesn’t mean that things will suddenly be okay again. But that within and of itself is okay, is it not? God doesn’t call us to hide in shame of how we feel, He doesn’t call us to be perfect; He calls us to be genuine and broken, to be mouldable and teachable… perhaps this is why He continues to strip me back until I am raw and vulnerable; so that I can forever be dependant upon Him, so that I can forever be His hands and feet?

In bed that night, I put my phone on charge and in the process I saw that Ann Voskamp shared the following on her Instagram story: “Living from a divided heart, is what breaks your heart. But a heart knows wholeness when it lives for God wholeheartedly”. As tears ran cold over my swollen cheek, I prayed in broken sobs. I spoke to God about the divisions of my heart, about the areas where I have placed pieces of my home and I asked Him to help me find my home in Him alone. My hearts home is beginning to once again find its rest in the safety and security of my Father; in this season of deep grief, I continue to seek out the One who keeps His promises to me [Isaiah 41:13, Isaiah 65:24, Exodus 14:14].

God had begun planting seeds in my heart on Tuesday, and by Wednesday night, He had found ways to say to me all He needed to say in order to answer my hearts pleading question. As this week draws to a close, God continues to speak to me and reveal more of Himself to me. I remember thinking that it would be easier to be mad at God if I couldn’t see Him in my grief, but because I am close to Him, I can see Him, even when I don’t understand. Because the truth is that I will never fully understand, and that’s okay, I’m learning how to trust instead. With each passing day, my Father is teaching me how to enter into the undercurrent. I am still grieving, I am terribly sad, but I am also still healing, and my recovery journey continues to reflect the glory of God. Like anything in life: this too is a journey within and of itself. And even still, He meets me here.

– c x (28.01.2022)

the undercurrent .

It’s quite sweet, the way in which God writes with me. Truth be told, I started this post nearly 2 weeks ago. At that stage it was titled ‘gifts in His timing’, and I’d been dwelling on that concept since. A week ago God changed the title to ‘the current’ and over the last few days it’s become ‘the undercurrent’. Throughout the waiting period, God has proceeded to quietly whisper to the deep of my heart. It wasn’t until this morning, that God gifted me with the words to articulate what He’s been teaching me in the waiting.

We know that a current is two-fold; firstly, presenting as a current that flows in one direction, and secondly, presenting as an undercurrent that flows in another direction: steadily beneath and against the current itself. Some currents are calm, whilst others are brutal. It’s similar to the concept of suffering, in the sense that we are all assured one guarantee: in the same way that we will experience different levels of suffering, we will also experience different strengths of currents. This is the story of my battle between the current and the undercurrent.

As I stood in front of the bathroom mirror at work this morning, my heart scraped along the ground and I felt the gentle pressing of this question; Who is my God, to me?

You see, as much as God is the same and consistent through the ages, He is also individually different to each of us. Some of us see Him as more of a Father, others as more of a Leader, a Companion, a Friend etc. And whilst, yes, God is all of those things, He inhabits different forms for each of us, in accordance to our needs in that moment. Today my heart scraped along the ground, caught in the current. Today, my God was my Giver. Why? Because He continually gave me what I needed to get through that day; provision, care, unconditional love, connection, reassurance, security, safety, relationship, blessings, favour. Throughout the day, my Giver beckoned my heart toward the undercurrent that washed up at the foot of the cross.

On the way to work this morning it was nearly 7am when I stopped at Hazbeans to grab a chai latte, thinking that it would fix everything. However, it wasn’t so much the chai latte that would fix everything, but rather the spontaneous ways in which God inserted Himself into my day; reminding me of His love. The que to order coffee extended by 12-13 people, as I took my place at the back of the line I felt a sense of hopelessness settle over my heart, sweeping me deeper into the current. As I moved toward the counter, slowly, I felt my heart tug on every stone and crack in the pavement as it dragged behind me. Over time I ordered my chai latte and chose a spot to stand and wait. Like clock work T pulled up, to my surprise I checked the date and sure enough it was Wednesday; ironically also the 19th. We had pilates this morning, however I’d cancelled my sessions for the week on Monday and proceeded to forget about it up until I unexpectedly saw T. I smile now because in hindsight, I can see how in that moment, God gave me a piece of connection and relationship. I can see how the chats and giggles with T, reminded me subtly that I am still seen and heard. Here my Giver beckoned my heart toward the undercurrent. T and I parted ways, but my Giverfollowed alongside my heart as it dragged behind me. My day at work began rather abruptly as my boss, in her frustration with others, lost her temper with me a mere few seconds after I said good morning. I held back the tears that had been floating on the surface since my alarm went off that morning, I put my head down and carried on with my work. Mid-morning, I received a message from S. The friendship between S and I was still new but to my surprise, she had been praying for me that morning; she wasn’t sure why but I had been on her heart more than usual. The strings of my heart tugged as my Giver, gifted me again with a reminder that I am cared for, beckoning my heart toward the undercurrent.

My heart, still a little battered and bruised, but now also a little held and loved, followed heavily behind me and dared to ask where else God has been my Giver over recent weeks. For the last several years, my current has kept me safely trapped, carrying me nearer to Gollum, my safely trapped; a cycle of self destruction and mutilation, desperate attempts to be safe and secure. My current has nearly claimed my life over the years, in moments of weakness it’s washed me up to the doorstep of hell.

How can I shift into the undercurrent, so that even in the most brutal storms, I am still washed me up at the foot of the cross? Stay with me as I recount a collection of smalltestimonies, that reflect the big ways in which God has revealed Himself as my Giver. At the end, watch as He ties it all together and answers my hearts plea.

On the 10th of January, 9 days earlier, God presented Himself as my Giver in one of the most profound ways. It was 5:38pm and I was curled on the floor of my cupboard, in fetal position, sobbing as I fought against the current that lead to habitual self-destruction. Here, my Giver carried me through a period of great distress. Psychology and the science of human behaviour, teaches us that the calm down period after distress is 20min. Up until that afternoon, I would have habitually engaged in self harm, eating disorder behaviours, ETOH++, or just about anything that could have stopped me from having to sit with and feel my way through the distress. Instead, God gave me the tools to safely navigate my way through the period of extreme distress, my Giver sat with me and as He beckoned my heart into the undercurrent, I washed up at the foot of the cross.

I went to church on the Sunday between the 10th and the 19th of January. I wasn’t going to go, in fact that whole week I’d been planning to spend time alone with God by the riverside. However, I ended up at church and in hindsight I believe that was exactly where God wanted me, because it was there that He gifted me with the most reassurance that He is Lord of my life, my Givermy Home

The first gift I received that Sunday, was the gift of connection. Ever since I made the commitment to put God above all others, He has continually blessed me with safe and healthy relationships. When He is first in my heart, everything else falls into place. I remember pulling into church a little later than usual, T’s car was parked where I usually park and I remembered then she was in creche that day. I walked into the building, and where before I would have walked in bravely, I now walked in secure in God. I spotted O and family, and I headed straight for them. [Side note that once upon a time ago I wouldn’t have done this, however I know that each week we sit together and regardless of whether or not T is there, O still sits with me so I figured I could do the same.] Out of respect and probably a little bit of insecurity, I sat one seat away from O and we started chatting. Eventually he smiled and said ‘It’s not covid yet, you know you don’t have to sit so far away’. Laughter arose as I moved next to him and we proceeded to chat about my new car. On stage they asked for two families to join in a quiz, I jokingly nudged O and said he should go up.. my joke backfired when he laughed and said that they’d call me up as part of the family too. A series of small chats and laughs passed between us and over the course of the service, my Giver showed me that because I was so safe and secure in Him, I was now also quite comfortable with the relationships around me and I no longer held anxiety or fear. This has carried across many relationships within the church and I think it’s quite profound, given how far we have come.

The second gift I received that Sunday, was the gift of reassurance. I risked everything when I decided to choose God, it was a choice that required a lot of faith amidst great uncertainty. Sometimes I’m still not sure if I have fully given myself over to God, sometimes I worry that I’m not giving enough or that I am not near enough to Him to hear from Him. Overtime God continues to gently prove to me that I have chosen Him, that He is there and that He is speaking to me. Wednesday a week ago, the Wednesday between crying in my cupboard and going to church, was the first time God gifted me with the concept of currents. I remember sitting at hazbeans after my 3rd pilates class that week, I was watching the waters and read a devotion that spoke about where we receive our watering; from the dry wells of the world, or from the eternal spring that flows from the Father? At church on Sunday, I’m sure you can imagine the surprise I got when they started speaking about the undercurrent. It was shared that during a time when every bodily instinct screams to run, at the core of our beings is a subtle and gentle calling to grab hold of the undercurrent; to flow toward Jesus. My Giver, reassured me and confirmed my closeness to Him; confirming that He was teaching me, whispering sweetly to my heart even on the days that it drags along the ground behind me. The undercurrent will always flow against the natural grain, this is the current that flows with water from the Well; the Eternal Spring. The undercurrent is almost unnatural in the sense that it challenges what is considered natural and habitual, it is something we need to fight for and grab hold of amidst the storm.

But what about the brutal storms? What happens when our currents are washing us away, drowning us faster than we can swim?

I remember recently a time where I told God that I couldn’t swim. I begged Him in tears, to please stop calling me out further to where my feet couldn’t stand. Bless His gentle response to me; ‘My Child, why are you so worried about not being able to swim? Do you not know how I carry you?’. My Giver gifted me with a peace amidst all anxiety and uncertainty. It is because of His gift, that I am able to stand firm in the faith that even if my brutal currents pull me below the surface, I will be held and carried by my Father. It is below the surface, amidst the chaos of the storm, on the brink of drowning; it is there that we find the undercurrent.

Ann Voskamp first initiated me to the concept of allowing our brokenness to wash us up at the foot of the cross. This is one concept I have carried throughout my journey, and I believe it is the same in terms of our currents. Currents may be calm, but they may also be brutal. One thing that remains the same, is that in both good and bad times, our undercurrent is there; beckoning us toward the foot of the cross, in praise but also in desperation. Regardless of what season we are in, God calls us to draw nearer to Him; in praise and thanksgiving (Ps 100:4-5), in mourning (Mat 5:4, Ps 34:18), in every season (James 1:17-19).

My next questions to God was; what happens while we wait? What happens in the current? His answer was simple; ‘you have faith’. In the waiting, in the midst of the brutal storms, this is where we fight. In faith, we pray (1 Thes 5:16-18). In faith, we let God fight our battles (2 Chron 20:17). In faith, we trust that we are not alone (Josh 1:5, Ps 94:14). In the current, we will face a battle between our heads and our hearts, between what we know and what we feel. My Giver blessed me yet again when later this morning, S messaged me to say that “what I KNOW about God, is GREATER than what I feel right now”. How beautiful is the reminder that regardless of how we feel, and regardless of what currents are flowing in our midst: God remains the same (Hebrews 13:8).

If by now the answer is not already clear, then what remains is the question I first posed: How can I shift into the undercurrent, so that even in the most brutal storms, I am still washed up at the foot of the cross? 

There are three verses in particularly that my Giver has given me, and that He has continually brought me back to each and every day. When all else fails and I find myself drowning amidst the brutal currents, this is what will lead me to the gentle and steady flow of the undercurrent, this will bring me to the foot of the cross: To be still and know that God will fight for me (Ex 14:14), to know that He hears me and answers my prayers even when I don’t know what to say (Is 65:24), and above all else He holds my right hand and I do not have to be afraid (Is 41:13).. would you smile too if I told you that Isaiah 41:13 was displayed on the projector at church on Sunday? Just another precious gift.

I will praise my Giver for the gift of the currents I have faced and will continue to face, for each of them, no matter how calm or brutal, provide me with the opportunity to learn how to get caught up in the undercurrent. I know without a doubt that I have grown in my dependency upon God, and that where I once would have turned to Gollum, I am now able to turn to my Father. In faith, I will seek out the undercurrent amidst every storm.

– c x (19.01.2022)

a new thing .

Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing! .. I am making a way in the wilderness, and streams in the wasteland.”

The zone of proximal development is the period between what one can already do, and what they strive to do. Lev Vygostky proposed this concept within his theory of development. I’ve learned about this at school, in childcare at tafe, in teaching at uni and again over this last semester in psych. But wasn’t until the other night that I began piecing together the similarities between Vygostky’s zone of proximal development, and the concept God taught me whilst reading a devotion by Ann Voskamp many months ago. I don’t know if you can recall on previous blog posts, but I often refer to the concept of God giving me what I need to get through each season. Where even if the worst thing I can imagine comes to pass, He would still be there to get me through. The zone of proximal development that I often find myself amidst, comes in the form of a period where I am trying to venture toward something; often a search for safety and security in God, trust, faith, or more recently recovery. These are all things that my heart longs for, but that I am still learning how to achieve. It’s within this zone that God scaffolds me and gives me what I need to get through.

These last few years have been some of the most turbulent that I’ve ever walked through, I feel like it’s only natural to seek peace amidst the storms but so often I have run from peace because I’ve felt undeserving and ashamed. Earlier this year God and I transitioned into a period of vulnerability, there I learned how to allow God to remove my bricks. It’s nearing the end of the year and He still has to remove a brick every now and then, but I’m learning that that’s okay too. Something God’s been doing as He removes my bricks that are not of Him, is that He has slowly started to replace them with what I call ‘heart bricks’. My heart bricks form a shield of protection that God places around my heart, one that keeps me safe and secure in Him. I have heart bricks for faith, trust, hope, all the concepts He has taught me; that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that He is my Home, that I am loved unconditionally. Over the months God has created a fortress around my heart and with that He has built strength to withstand the turbulent storms that otherwise once would have drowned me. The most recent heart brick God has blessed me with has been peace.

When we think of peace, we all picture something different. Peace manifests itself in different ways and presents to us all uniquely. For me peace has looked like returning to the riverside after months to sit with Jesus, it has looked like uncontrollable laughter and unexplainable joy. But let me tell you that peace has also looked like crying in the bathroom stall at church the night before Christmas, it’s looked like screaming riverside and begging God to hold me, sobbing in pain after a meal and desperately resisting the urge to engage with Gollum. Peace is Jesus and Peace has met me in each of these circumstances. When I think back to afternoons spent with my Jesus by the riverside, I picture peace. When I recall the way my heart broke as I said goodbye to T, all that stands out through the whole process, is peace. When I remember how I felt the first moment I saw my weight after months of blind gain, I can feel how Peace flooded by being. If I think of my life over these recent weeks, all the brutal and the beautiful moments, they all point to God and work to form a perfect picture of peace.

A while ago I ended a post by saying that Jesus tells us that He is our peace. I always thought that it meant that I could find a sense of peace in Him, and whilst yes, that may be true, I am also learning that peace isn’t so much a place or a feeling; it’s a person. Jesus is Peace. We can’t arrive to a place of peace, our hearts can’t travel into a sense of peace. The truth is that peace is a Person that we can abide in, a Person who offers the deepest peace because He is Peace. The broken pieces of my heart find themselves abiding in unison with my Jesus because in every moment I have endured recently, Jesus has been my Peace.

It’s almost as if the atmosphere shifts when you step into the plans God has for you. I’ve seen glimpses of it before, over the years but those glimpses always seemed to disappear as I found myself retreating back under the blankets of guilt and shame. I read a devotion by Ann Voskamp recently and given the time of year, it was centred around peace but it also perfectly went hand in hand with the season my faith is in. Ann wrote that the pieces of ourselves that we keep trying to bury, are exactly what keeps burying our peace. When we hide pieces of ourselves, we never find peace — I’ve never thought of this before but it’s so true. In an attempt to avoid the rawness of vulnerability I have spent years trying to hide pieces of myself and my reality from the world around me, and if I think about it, I can’t honestly say I’ve ever truly had peace either. Ann began putting forth a series of ‘maybe’ circumstances; Maybe there are things in our hearts and minds that we never want fully found out, because we’re terrified to find out that no one fully loves us. Or, maybe our hearts ache to be taken and accepted as we are, but the fear of that very ache is what drives us to take and hide the parts of ourselves we believe are unacceptable. She then said “maybe the secret to peace is to have no secrets”.. I thought about this for a while and it dawned on me that this concept doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to go around sharing our deepest secrets with everyone we know, all it means is that we can’t have secrets from God. God already fully knows every secret that we try to keep hidden and do you know what? He loves us anyway. The idea of God loving me regardless of knowing everything that I’ve been ashamed of my whole life, is something I am honestly still trying to grasp; I’ve been learning how to sit with it, to accept it and to just let God love me.

Ann wrote that we are called to carry each other’s brokenness, but we can’t do that if we’re all wearing masks of fake holiness. Whilst I’m still trying to figure out what she means, I do know that God has called me into a season where I have needed to take off my mask so that He can use me. God made me who I am for a purpose, God’s been revealing to me more and more how He plans to use me as His hands and feet. But my largest conviction came when God asked me how I planned on letting Him use me, if I was too ashamed to give up my identity to the world. This became a two-fold because firstly my identity should be in God, and secondly if I am safe and secure in God, then why have I been so bothered by what the world thinks of me? How can God use me to carry other’s brokenness, if I am too caught up in hiding the secrets of who I am? Where would I find my peace?

As the recent weeks have unfolded, I’ve come to realise that the peace I’ve been searching for amidst the turbulent years, has always been there. I’ve learned about what it means to allow my brokenness to wash me up at the foot of the cross. At times I have been so distressed, thoughts of self destruction screamed piercingly but even then by the grace of God, I was able to seek Him. I’ve learned what it means to feel my emotions wholly and surrender them fully unto God, in the past my emotions always got the better of me and I used to hate myself for the way I felt. However I have come to realise that emotions are what makes us human, we are allowed to feel them and we are allowed to sit with them. Having emotions doesn’t make us bad, in fact I’ve been reading a book T lent me called ‘Fully Human’. This book so clearly outlines and normalises the concept of emotion; I’ve proceeded to give pages of summaries of this book to members in my team and ladies at work, I find myself recommending it to pretty well anyone and everyone I know. Anyway, as the weeks have passed I’ve also learned how to seek God amidst distress and how to bring everything to Him in prayer; I never used to be able to do this and now that I can, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve never been more grateful to recognise progress within myself, God’s slowly become my first habitual point of contact. I am each day learning how to rely on Him more and more. You see, I used to be too ashamed to go to God but Jesus died for all the unspeakable and shameful things of this world, God has already forgiven all the things I have been ashamed of. Because of this unconditional forgiveness and love, I’m learning that I forever have access to peace.

When God first called me out into a season of going all in for Him, I didn’t know what that would look like, I didn’t know what it would entail and I didn’t know the extent of what God would ask of me. In the beginning I went through phases of thinking that it was almost cruel for God to continually ask more and more of me. I soon saw that everything He asked, even the most brutal requests, were all necessary in order for Him to be first in my life. There is nothing out of reason that God has asked of me and despite the tears and distress, I would honestly do it all over again if it meant that I could have all of Him. I remember one of the last things T said to me as my GP; “some days life is like buzlightyear, ‘to infinity and beyond’, but other days it’s like dory, ‘just keep swimming’. I’d like to think that since that day I’ve kept swimming, or at least I’ve tried to. Each day God has called me out into deeper waters. I remember when I first questioned Him and told Him I was afraid and I couldn’t swim any further, He asked me why I felt the need to swim when all He wanted was for me to trust Him; when all I needed to do was trust Him.

A little while ago my church held an encounter night, a night devoted to worship and encountering the Holy Spirit. The day came around faster than expected and I’d had a more difficult day than usual, as I was hopping into my car I remember telling God about my day and asking Him to meet me; as the beautiful words of Isaiah 65:24 say, God heard me and answered me before I could even finish speaking. As I buckled in my phone lit up with a reminder, it was an hour until encounter night began. I smiled and asked God if He was sure I needed to go, but I already knew the answer and almost reluctantly I went. But my oh my, can I tell you that I’m so glad I did? In the span of two hours I surrendered myself so wholly and so completely over to God’s plan for me. In a state of vulnerability I found myself stripped raw before Him, in waters deeper than I’d ever found myself in, only this time I felt no need to swim. That night Ps S prayed over me, anointed my head with oil and spoke only God’s truth over my life, He declared the breaking of chains and the freedom that comes with stepping into God’s plan for me. I walked away that night and I listened to God, I allowed Him to write through me and I shared only the smallest bit of my testimony with those around me. Following on from that, only God’s fruits have blossomed.

For a brief moment I found myself overwhelmed by the raw feeling of nakedness that coupled with vulnerability… but the further I wade out into the unknown, the more I’m realising that I’ll never stop being in awe of God and if I’m honest, I hope I never stop. I am humbled and grateful for the beautiful ways in which people have responded to what God and I shared, both on Facebook and Instagram, but also for all the private messages. The testimony I shared was merely the tip of the ice burg and I genuinely can not wait for God to unveil every other testimony that has come and that is still to come. Speaking to people about it has opened my eyes to a world of blessings, that the guilt and shame kept me blind to. People have reached out in the most unexpected ways and I can see how God is planting new seeds of healing, restoration, relationship and how His plan is being carried out in my own life, but also the lives of those around me.

As humans God created us for connection and since choosing Him, above all others, He has restored and created new connections in my life. The vulnerability of stepping out from under the familiar blankets of guilt and shame, came at the price of my safely trapped, but it allowed me to fully and wholly be safely held. I have been so afraid to connect with people because I’ve feared that if they found out about my past and my secrets, then they would want nothing to do with me; however, the more God connects me with His people, the more I realise that my fears simply aren’t logical. Ann speaks about how whatever fears we have, don’t actually exist because God exists and there is no fear in perfect love and God is Perfect Love. Love has always been my hearts deepest desire, and its deepest fear. Love breaks us open in the most raw and vulnerable way, but when held in God’s Love, it is eternally safe. When God’s love is within us, our hearts are able to safely abide within those around us; that’s what it means to have a heart for Gods people: to love those around us and to live with our hearts first inside of Him, and then inside of His people. I continue to be blessed by my Father, His provision and favour over me is like no other. I have learned new meanings of a Peace that surpasses all understanding, because by any standard I previously would have been beside myself in devastation and distress over recent weeks, but instead I have found ways to praise God through every trial this season.

Okay, you might want to sit down for this next little praise point because it takes a whole new meaning of monumental… I’ve been battling with Gollum for many years, longer than before I began treatment and before anyone knew. It never occurred to me that I’d be able to say this, but would you believe me if I told you that I have been Gollum free for 7 weeks?! What does that mean? That means 110% full intake of proper people food every day; three full meals, two main snacks, normal snacks, a fortisip and everything in between!! It also means that I haven’t skipped a single meal, not one! It also means that there has been no throwing up of any kind, no self harm, no exercise, no giving into temptations.. absolutely nothing other than my whole-hearted pursuit of God!!!

What does this mean?

Are you ready for it?

… DISCHARGE!

Yip, you heard me! *Inserts little girl squeals here*

Okay don’t worry, I didn’t expect it either but let me explain! So it all started when I saw J little over a week ago, during our dietitian appointment we were chatting about progress and I asked about extending to monthly appointments. J surprised me by how willing she was to do so and she then started talking about going six monthly, simply for the sake of checking in on my bodies nutritional levels; nothing about Gollum was even hinted toward! I remember walking away praising God for this sign of progress, I thought it was the most exciting thing ever but I also thought that was as far as it would go for now.. boy was I wrong! A couple of day passed after seeing J and I found myself ever so excitedly sharing the news with T after pilates but little did I know that there was so much more to come! Barely a few hours after sharing with T, I met R for breakfast; it was our last session before she moved back to Perth and despite all our snotty tears, it was a well awaited celebration. We chose Emu Point and had big chats, R read my testimony and was moved to tears, we spoke about our futures and plans, and out of no where R brought up discharge. R told me that S brought up her thoughts around discharge from cmh early next year. Due to R moving back to Perth, I’ve been handed over to JL with whom S thinks I will have only a few sessions with before we transition into total discharge. R and S have expressed great excitement for the progress we have been making and couldn’t see discharge extending past February next year. It didn’t sink in for the rest of the day and by the time I saw my next team member, K, it still felt surreal. T only newly handed me over to her and on our second meeting I was almost afraid to ask about a transition to discharge; but by God’s grace He already set the foundation and she greeted me with the warmest smile, expressing great joy over the emails my team had been sending out. K was more than happy to work toward discharge, she even included this plan in her team email and a referral I asked for. K cancelled a series of appointments and spaced out the rest, her excitement for me and her encouragement was so beautiful. I can honestly only give God the glory because there are still nights that I sob from the pain of the food digesting in my stomach, days where Gollum’s voice still seeps in; but no matter what has happened, God has given me the strength to surrender all unto Him. God continues to give me what I need to get through; This goes back to the zone of proximal development.

Whilst we’re on the topic of proximal development and uni chats.. can we just take a moment to praise God for carrying me through my first semester of psych?? So many tears, so many late nights and moments where I wanted to give up entirely.. But you know what? I received my exam results and your girl passed with distinctions!! I genuinely prepared myself for the disappointment of failing, the uni coordinator for health had already pre-arranged a refund of the units for me under special circumstances if it was required, but by God’s grace it wasn’t even necessary!! The more I study and the more I learn in my recovery, the more I fall in love with God and the more God stirs within me a fire for Him.

Over and over again, God keeps blessing me with more evidence that I am exactly where He wants me. I have no doubt that He has big plans for my career. Going on from this, ever since sharing a piece of my testimony you won’t believe how many people have declared that I have a calling on my life. Many have commented on my writing and how they truly believe God has me exactly where He wants me. My writing is something that has come up in nearly every conversation but it’s something I’ve always been self conscious about, I’ve never been easily inclined to share it due to the fear and vulnerability attached. But each time I have shared something, even the smallest of things, I have been met with so much kindness and encouragement. However, as humbled as I am, I can’t take any of that credit, it’s not mine to bare. When I write, I write with God and I write led by His spirit. I’ve never wanted it to be my words, that’s too much rawness and responsibility; I’ve only ever wanted it to be God speaking through me, His words, His presence and for His glory. When I write, my souls petition is for anything that is not of God to be void and for His blessing to be upon what is of Him. I mean these things in the most authentic and sincere way, none of this is about me and no writing ever published will be about me either; it’s all about Him. I’ve sometimes worried that if people never know ‘how bad’ things were, that they’d never be able to fully understand ‘how good’ God is. But every time I gravitate towards those anxieties, God catches me and He reminds me that all I need to do is be His hands and His feet— He does the rest. By His grace I believe that I have nothing to prove, I don’t owe anybody an explanation or an apology, I don’t need validation from anybody other than God; I am safe and secure in Him. Nothing makes my heart smile more, than when people praise God and give Him the glory for what they’ve read. He is the true author, he writes my story and I truly believe that the writing He blesses, is written led by Him. The truth is, I honestly don’t think I fully grasp the gift God has blessed me with through writing, or the ways in which He plans to use my journey to reach the hearts of others; but I also think that humility and naivety is in and of itself something to value.

I think it would be naive of me to celebrate these milestones without acknowledging that I know we’ve seen hope before, I know that earlier this year I claimed to go ‘all in’ for God; I get it, there are many people in my inner and outer circles who are skeptic and to be honest, I was too. But I’m not anymore because God tells me that through Him, all things are possible. Not some thing, all things. These last 7 weeks have been monumental, I’ve never surpassed milestones like these before and I owe it all to God. I know that in reality Gollum doesn’t disappear over night, it’s not that easy. But I just wish that people could understand and see the progress that God has made. Seeing E has been hard lately. I’ve spoken to her about my faith in the past but was shut down, when I saw CA she wasn’t pleased and expressed concern about therapies overlapping, when I bravely told her about my decision not to hide my secrets anymore she shut that down too and I cried. Last week I told E about the teams talk about discharge and she again made me cry, I understand her concerns and I know she’s seen many cases in recovery but I can’t help but wish she could see what God has done. E means well, I know, but it feels like she speaks death, not life, over my recovery, planting negative seeds of doubt; I don’t really have the words to articulate all my feelings but I’m giving this to God and trusting Him in the process. Regardless of what happens going forward, I know I am not a failure and if recovery takes longer than anticpated, then that’s okay too because I trust God. I think it’s valuable for me to be able to look back over the years and humbly look at where I went wrong; this is in terms of going ‘all in’ for God, in terms of seeking out my safety and security in Him etc. I am all for learning from my mistakes, but I’m also not willing to discredit the progress made; I think it’s incredible and I honestly haven’t been more grateful for the work God has done within me and the strength He continues to give me in this fight. I trust that as He continues to move mountains, He will make Himself known to all those around me and those whom once doubted, will then see all He has done.

I remember earlier this year when God gave me a new ’19’, it was Isaiah 43:19 and God told me that He was doing a new thing, I keep seeing this verse in every area of my life and I stand as living testament to the power of God. He keeps His word and He writes Himself into every chapter of my story, into every season of my life. My God is the God of the impossible, nobody needs to understand or know the intricate details, in order to see and know that God is who He says He is. The verse tattooed on my wrist, Isaiah 41:13, tells me that I don’t need to be afraid. And you know what? I don’t need to abide in fear because I can abide in my Father, my Safe Place, my Home. Isaiah 65:24, also tattooed, reminds me that I don’t need to always know what to day, it’s not about having the right words or praying the perfect prayer; before I speak God answers me, and while I’m still speaking He hears me. God knows the desires of my heart and when my desires align with His own, when my heart pursues and seeks Him above all else, then everything falls into place for His glory.

God has a plan for my life, people have told me that over and over again over the years, but only now I am beginning to see it for myself. I don’t need to wait until I am qualified, because as cheesy as it sounds, it’s true that God qualifies those whom He calls out. God doesn’t need me to come fully equip because it’s not by my own works that God will use me, it is only through me and by His works. I am merely a vessel, I am God’s hands and His feet; He is the One who will move the mountains and bring breakthroughs from my brokenness. I don’t need to be good enough because God’s grace is abundantly enough. I don’t need to be strong because my strength comes from God and He is more powerful than we can ever comprehend. I also don’t need to know all the answers because sometimes it’s not for me to know, but simply for me to trust.

Despite what Gollum says, despite what loved ones or anyone else ever says; my Father tells me that I am beautiful and I am loved — His opinion of me is all that matters. I might not always love the girl I see in the mirror, but she will always be loved and she is learning to love herself. The childlike joy within me, leaves me absolutely besotted with my Jesus and who He is to me. The more I wade into deeper waters, the deeper my love for my Father grows and the more I yearn to be nearer to Him.

– c x (27.12.2021)

undone but whole .

I chose God and I chose Him with everything inside of me, and now nothing is the same.

These last two weeks have held more breakthroughs and change than any weeks prior. In the first week God taught me about what it means to be loved at the highest price. He showed me that His love was the only love that would ever fulfil and satisfy my hearts deepest desires. The process of learning these lessons has been brutal, God’s been honest with me and in His honesty He showed me that I’d once again fallen into the cycle of searching for a deep love, from everywhere that was not Himself. I had to learn the hard way that if God wasn’t first in my heart, if His love wasn’t the love I was pursuing, then I would never find myself loved at the highest price.

If I’m honest now, I would admit that it’s been a few months in the works but it’s only been over these last two weeks that I’ve made the decision to go ‘all in’ for God. I spent time sitting riverside with Him, dwelling on His what He’d been revealing to me and asking Him what He wanted from me. Do you remember how in my last post I stated that I’d spent my whole life yearning for a kind of love that engulfs your every being, that captivates you and holds you, that meets you where you are and unconditionally washes over you? That kind of love that comes at the highest price? During the time that I’d written that post, God had been preparing me, He showed me that He paid that highest price when He allowed His one and only Son to be sacrificed for the sins of this world; so that we may have access to His love and a life eternal with Him. But God also showed me that I couldn’t access the freedom of His love, until such a time that He was first and that He was the only one I pursued for that love. My question to Him was ‘how’.. His answer to me was ‘sacrifice’. As I sat on the banks of the river, it became apparent to me that it wasn’t so much a question of ‘how’ or ‘what’, but rather a question of ‘when’. I knew what I needed to give up in order to find my way back to God but in the most bittersweet way, I knew that it would mean giving up what I loved most so that I could learn to love God most.

So I let go.

I let go of my stubbornness and my pride, I humbled myself and I let myself go to the plans that God had for me. I let go of my search for love, for approval, for comfort and the things I lacked as a child. I let go of the ‘need’ for safety and security because I had been searching for it in the wrong places. I let go of my preconceived ideas of who God was and how He felt toward me, I let go of all the things I had held against Him during all the times I felt He’d let me down. I let go of the fear that kept me trapped, and then came the sacrifice: I had to sacrifice my deepest tangible desire for connection and love, I had to let go of the person who had embodied all I had spent my life searching for and I had to risk the loss of that relationship (amidst the already current losses), all so that I could put God first. I had to as T to let me, let her go and I did. Bless her heart, she handled everything so lovingly and God was so present through the entire process. There is so much I could write to justify all the questions for ‘why’, but none of them are as important as the decision to choose God.

Upon arriving home on the 2nd of December, I stood beneath the blanket of night. I remember the sky above me was crystal clear, the stars aligned, and the glory of God was written across the heavens. I fixed my gaze upon a star as it travelled through the nights sky, I couldn’t recall the last time I’d seen a shooting star so rare and as it disappeared into blackness; the heaviness of the preceding week hit me and I buckled over in despair. A week of arguing with God, pleading for alternatives and then following through on His plan for me, had led me to that moment in time: bent over in the black of night, sobbing convulsively, with my broken voice whispering out a cry to be held by my Father. Would you believe me if I told you that, yes, He met me there and this time He wrapped me in a love so unconditional and so tangible, that nothing else seemed to measure up.

How could I have ever been so afraid? I was afraid of being alone, of losing everything I’d fought so hard to gain, of being vulnerable and allowing myself to truly and wholly be loved by the One who loved me first. I know that people say there is freedom in love, but can you hear me when I tell you that there is freedom in Love because God is Love? I anticipated months before the word ‘okay’ would leave my lips again, I didn’t think I’d be okay until maybe March or May next year.. but by God’s grace I woke up on Friday, completely and utterly okay. I still allowed myself to grieve but I was still okay and over the days that followed, God revealed secrets of Himself to me. As I grieved for the tangibility of closeness, God drew nearer to me. As I grieved the loss of presence, God flooded my atmosphere with His presence. Within three days it had become apparent to me that there was no need for grief because there was no loss.. can you grasp the truth of that? There was no loss because when you sacrifice the loss of your own human desires, you gain God and when you gain God, you gain everything your human heart desired, and so much more.

The decision to let go of my human heart’s desires and to wholly pursue God and Him alone, was a decision I knew would cause pain.. but what I didn’t know, was that it would also cause a peace like no other. I spent so much time preparing myself but nothing could prepare me for the rawness that coupled with the nakedness of vulnerability, the removal of safety and the exposure of my weakness. As I sought out the One who sacrificed everything for me, He met me there and I found myself held. I found the cracks of my brokenness as they began to connect like constellations, each of them telling stories of God’s grace, His provision, His faithfulness and His unconditional love. I was undone but in Him I was made whole.

I am yet to tell anyone of my decision to choose God but as my treating team transitions into a period of change, I have spent the last 10 days meeting with each member and we’ve all taken the time to discuss what T and I had decided to do: thus being the decision to take a period of distance, where I would be free to pursue God and seek healing before her and I enter into the friendship we’ve always spoken of. Between all of us, we’ve spent literally hours speaking about the ins and outs, and you wouldn’t believe me, but not one tear was shed. There are no words that have the capacity to describe the intensity of peace that I have felt throughout this last week, in the absence of devastation and sorrow, God’s peace flooded every inch of my atmosphere. For a flicker in time I felt guilty for not grieving for ‘long enough’, but if anything was reflected through its absence, it was the glory of God and it was confirmation that my decisions were aligning with His will for my life. I have felt so held and so blessed, blessed by T’s receptiveness and her grace through the process, blessed by my teams support and understanding, but primarily just blessed by the ways in which God has held me.

Can we just take a moment to acknowledge and honor God for all the blessings that have flowed from my decision to pursue Him? I’ve been abundantly blessed by T’s receptiveness, her grace and love, her willingness to wait for me and to continue praying for me (and our kept church bubble of course). I’ve been blessed by my teams support and understanding throughout this process. But wait, there’s more! As I have learned to place God first, He has brought restoration to what was lost.. my mother started to go to therapy (yes, I’m not lying), and from that God has brought such a healing over her and my relationship with her. My brother has been out on harvest but he opened up to me one night and has he cried (which he never does), he asked me to forgive him and he said that he forgave me (three years later). I’ve still been so cautious because I don’t want to be hurt again, however God challenged me on that because who am I to be cautious of something He has blessed me with? His peace has been over my relationships in ways it never has before, and I have no doubt that regardless of what continues to happen, I know I will remain held by God because He is who my safety and security is attached to. Because of this, I have allowed myself to enjoy the unfamiliar newness of relationship with my family, my father included. What a blessing?

It’s become increasingly apparent to me that I will never reach a point where I ever fully understand what God’s plan for me is, every time I think I have it sorted out, He calls me out further into deeper waters. Oh I just can not even begin to tell you how profound the ways in which God works, truly is!

The ways in which I see myself has been restored. I was telling S and E in our appointments, that perhaps it sounds silly to them, but I happened to catch my reflection in a window quite unexpectedly in town on that first Thursday afternoon and the only thing I thought was that I wasn’t fat anymore and maybe I didn’t need to starve myself or throw up. The difference between when I first had that mindset back in April during my week alone with God in hospital, and when I had that mindset the other day, is a good 8kgs and the fact that now God is fully and wholly first in my life. Only one of those two differences actually matters, and that’s God’s position in my life. Even though according to medical standards, I am still overweight.. for the first time I am so completely and totally okay with the weight gain that has paired with recovery. Not to sound vain, but I actually think that I still look beautiful and I truly believe that my weight doesn’t in any way, shape or form, hinder the ability for me to be loved. When I see me, I see Jesus and I think that’s so special. The photo above was taken on the Sunday of the week I decided to choose God, it was four days before I was going to let go of T but by then I had already let go and had chosen God. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that the smile on my face and everything about the photo just screams the goodness of God and the freedom that is gained in His love. Upon chatting to T, she even agreed that that first Sunday felt more natural and perfect than any of the ones prior. The next Sunday was just as natural and perfect, T wasn’t there but her husband came to sit next to me where we had quite the laugh and just chill chats, my heart was fixed on God and there was no anxiety or fear.

God has brought so many testimonies our of my brokenness, from day one. I share so many of them on this blog and I’ve often been told by many people that I’ve been blessed with the gift of writing. I’ve always felt the calling on my life to be God’s hands and His feet, to allow Him to use me and my brokenness, to help others. I often thought that this would happen when I’ve qualified as a psych and I’m passionately working in that industry. However God has recently been challenging me on that. In August last year I started a platform for my recovery, it grew to round 500 followers and I connected with many people.. I actually still chat regularly to two girls over east and God’s blessed those relationships. Back in March this year, I started a platform that partnered with this blog and God has just been so faithful. The more I share of Him, the more I am able to see the fruits of His spirit in all aspects of my life. God has used these platforms to prepare me for the season He is calling me into.

I recently received a message from a man who was having marital issues, He lives locally in Katanning and I found myself in a vulnerable position where he was seeking advice. I would usually ignore messages as such but there was something about his message that I couldn’t quite shake, so I took it to God. I dwelled on it in prayer for a while, asking God why I received the message when I have no qualifications to my name, asking Him what He wanted me to do and for His clear guidance. I decided to chat to this man, being careful as to not involve my emotions or offer advice because I didn’t feel comfortable in that area. Over a couple of weeks I saw this man go from someone who was broken, who had walked away from God and lived a life by his own governance.. to now having returned his heard to God, repented and who is now consciously more involved and invested as a husband and a father. I cried when I received a message to say that He had decided to choose God and that the relationship between himself and his family is already showing breakthroughs.. how good is God? I only ever shared the gospel with him, I told him about who God was and I allowed God to speak into this mans life, through me. It was honestly one of the most terrifying but precious experiences and I can see now, how God used this too, to prepare me for His greater plan.

God’s been asking me why I have felt like I needed to wait for qualifications and the ‘right time’ before I could begin to be His hands and His feet. He said that it’s all well and fine for me to give Him the glory through my said platforms, but they’re both anonymous and there’s only so much I can do for God while I’m still hiding in fear of what people will say of me, and in shame for what I’ve been through. Heck, isn’t there no fear or shame when my safety and security is in God? For the first time, I really don’t mind if people find out about my secrets. I know that regardless of what happens, God will give me what I need to get through. I have no doubt that the people who love me, will stand by me: unashamed of knowing me. A couple of weeks ago now, I wrote a blog about God wanting to undo everything within me that was not of Him, the shame and guilt, the fear that has held me captive and to do so, God needed access to all of me. I titled that post, ‘the undoing’, I didn’t know it at the time but that would become one of the first preparations God made. I wrote a journal entry the other week and in it I stated that I felt ‘undone but whole’, this became another preparation.

In a gentle but pressing way, God has been calling me out. From the moment I saw that photo of me laughing in His peace at church on that first Sunday, I knew that I finally had Him, wholly and completely at the centre of my life. Since then, my heart has only wanted Him and I have known without a doubt that I can trust whatever comes next. As God has continued to open and close seasons in my life, He has stirred within me a greater desire to step vulnerably into the plan He has for me. With my manuscript well underway, God made it quite clear that sooner or later people would find out and if I were to wait until I ‘felt ready’, then how many blessings would I prevent from taking place during that waiting period? A friend of mine is in hospital again, she isn’t a Christian and she is struggling more than she has in the past.. for the first time in little over a year, she recently began asking me about who God is and why I have so much faith in Him. God wants to use me, I just need to allow Him to. As I’ve brainstormed and prayed about what this would look like, God keeps gently telling me to just trust Him, to not overthink it or set expectations, but rather to just do what He asks and to let Him handle the rest. With this in mind, I began looking at the possibility of combining my recovery and faith platform, to create and rebrand one platform that God could use to reach others. There have been many questions of how topics of rape, eating disorders, false stigmas and society prejudices, disorders, faith, the things I learn in my own recovery and study, the testimonies and breakthroughs God blesses me with, my books and my career and everything in between, how topics as such can all intertwine onto one platform where God gets the glory. I went for a trip to Denmark with my mother and as I bravely told her about all of this and about what God was calling me into, she said that while I spoke, the only word that came to mind was the word ‘undone’. I remember being so taken back because my mother doesn’t know about my blog or what God has been doing, and she didn’t know that the concept of coming undone, was something God had so prominently been bringing to the table. I feel like the concept of becoming undone is something that anyone can relate to, whether they believe in God or not. To become undone, is always the first step before rebuilding; whether that pertains to our mindset, or belief systems, or recovery from mental health, or our identities, or just about anything in our lives that require restructuring. You can’t rebuild unless you have a strong and new foundation. I have no expectations of this new season, only that God is given the glory and that His plans are carried out. So whether the people around me accept me for who I am or not, whether I lose people due to what I’ve gone through or not, whether anyone cares or not.. none of it changes who I am in God or what His plan is for me. Heck, if even God can change just one life through me in the next 5 years, then it would still be worth it. I am not ashamed anymore because I know where my identity lies, I am eating my food and I find so much freedom and joy in the life God has given me. I have healthy relationships and I am healing, there is a long way to go but if I’m honest, I don’t think I’ll ever reach the end because God will never be done with my story. I’m not scared or who I will lose or gain, I spoke to H and we are doing a photoshoot before the end of the year and bless her heart, she’s so supportive and excited for what God is doing within me. There is so much still to come!

– c

loved at the highest price .

They say there’s a kind of freedom that comes from knowing with absolute certainty, that you are loved. It’s a freedom I’ve been searching for my whole life and looking back, I can see that each time I’ve taken a step into that freedom, I’ve allowed self doubt and insecurity to push me back into the darkness of my safely trapped.

I think that love, freedom, safety, security and all that comes between being safely trapped, or safely held; are all avenues that God has allowed me to explore in depth throughout the seasons. God has walked with me down each avenue and He has sat with me whenever I got lost or had no strength to go further. I haven’t always believed that God has been there, sometimes I still have doubt, but God’s never given me a reason to think otherwise – the testimonies that have so far come from my brokenness stand to prove this.

It often comes back to the verse Hebrews 11:1 where God tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. We don’t need to always ‘see’ or ‘feel’ God to know that He is there. In church this morning we were reminded that God wants to have an intimate relationship with us, not just when life is going well, but when things are hard too. God is consistent, I think that’s one of His biggest characteristics and it’s one of the easiest to prove; just look at His word, He was there for His people, from Genesis through to Revelations. There is a sense of security that comes from God’s consistency, a seed of reliability is sewn and trust grows from that as we learn that God isn’t going anywhere. Accepting the truth of God’s consistency and nearness, is difficult when you’ve spent your life experiencing conditional relationship and repeated loss. However, that’s the beauty of God: He isn’t human, He is Love and He is Truth.

I remember as a child, I often heard people say that change was as good as a holiday. I can’t attest to that because I’ve never liked change, and I rarely go on holiday. However there have been seasons over time where God has allowed change, and in hindsight most changes were good; even the painful ones, as they drew me nearer to God. I suppose that’s what people mean when they liken change to a holiday, subject to both being good. In my experience though, change has often lead to exposure, vulnerability and sometimes even uncomfortableness. Similarly, as has my ventures down various said avenues.

There have been significant times where God has allowed change to teach me about what it means to trust Him. Some changes felt brutal and left me raw, but even then, I can see how God held me and revealed to me His love. The embodiment and manifestation of His love is something that God continues to reveal to me each day. In every season, God continues to provide for me, He shows up and He meets me there. Experiencing God is an encounter like no other, being met by His love and His grace is overwhelming in the best way. I still struggle to understand how God can unconditionally love me without me needing to work hard to earn His love, but as I’ve said in the past; maybe that isn’t for me to understand but only for me to accept.

There’s freedom in that love, I know that now, but like any love, it requires vulnerability and trust. If I think back to each time change felt most brutal, I can also see that each time was a time where God wasn’t first in my life. There have been many of those brutal changes in my relationships, especially with those I love; family, friends, T. I’ve spiralled in circles searching for love, and still the love that aches the most is the lack of parental love. When my mom stopped loving me, I searched for a replacement love, a love that could outweigh my pain. I found a love from T, but it was never fair of me because her love for me was unconditional and in my brokenness I think I took advantage of that. By God’s grace, I know T still loves me but I also know that her love isn’t the love that my safety and security can be tied to. The same similarly be said for past people like R, J, TC etc.

So what love can my safety and security be tied to? I think we know the answer, all along we’ve known the answer. I remember a Sunday afternoon months ago, I sat riverside and I wrote a letter to T, explaining to her all that God was revealing to me. He was showing me that He needed to be my number one, the one I yearned to share with and go to first. And for a long time after that, He was, and during that time I remember pursuing Him so wholeheartedly that nothing could draw me away from my pursuit: I was so safe and secure. When my safety and security was tied to God’s love, I felt undoubtedly safe and secure in other relationships too. However, since moving from God, I have felt increasingly less safe and secure in all relationships. Can you see the pattern? I look back over my life and it never ceases to amaze me how many times I cross this bridge with God: He wants to be at the centre, He needs to be at the centre.

I can recall writing a blog post around that same Sunday afternoon, God had reminded me of His place in my life: centred and first. I remember reflecting upon seasons where God allowed for distance to be made between myself and people I loved most, so that from that distance could come a realignment with Him. Sometimes God has allowed ‘drastic’ or ‘brutal’ measures to be made, in order for me to come back to that realisation that He is Lord of my life. I’ve quoted part of that post below, it remains so relevant to where I find myself once again.

God has a way of using the most unexpected circumstances, from the most painful to the most seemingly insignificant, to constantly bring me back to Him; back to the foot of the cross. I shared with T recently about how God keeps bringing me back to a place where I am left with no other option than to realign my dependance solely upon Him. Ps Shaph shared the most beautiful perspective on this topic at church recently, he said: “Sometimes God allows weakness between a precious gift He has given us, so that we can keep coming back to a full dependance and security in Him alone”. God has gifted me with precious relationships but every now and then, God allows a moment of weakness and insecurity, distance, that brings me back to Himself and reminds me that my relationship with Him is most important. God continually reminds me that He is my home, that I am safe and secure in Him alone. I have held onto God’s promises a lot more tightly lately; His promise to be my home, His promise to keep me safe and secure, His promise to hold me in my brokenness, His promise to love me unconditionally and to hold my right hand. Each time I forget, I look down to my wrist.. Isaiah 41:13.”

I have moved away from God and I honestly can’t trace back my steps to see where it all started to unravel, but as I sit here now, everything around me is in shambles. It’s been eight weeks since my safest person stopped feeling safe, it’s been months now where alcohol has become a 24/7 coping mechanism, it’s been a never ending cycle of me trying to earn love and search for safety and security in wavering places. There is so much in my life that I can not control right now. Over these months I have chased numbness, but the pills and drunken nights on highways have only led to sarc’s and more pain. Over the last week I have had heightened sensitivity and anxiety.. I walked into a garden and began crying and hyperventilating because there were too many different coloured flowers that didn’t match.. I spent two hours between 2.30-4.30am virtually panicking about how my colleagues work desk had two black file dividers with three piercing neon orange ones on top and about how her stack of books didn’t all face the same direction.. I have had various meltdowns over mistyped documents or mismatched colour schemes. I seem to be hyper-fixating on the smaller and more controllable aspects of life because that’s easier than drowning in all the larger aspects that I can’t control. The most devastating part of all of this, is that I’ve over and over again, asked where God has been throughout these last few months. But again, I’ve known the answer all along: He has been right here, He’s never been anywhere else.

Isaiah 65:24 is a verse I have leant on time and time again, pressing into a hope that God really does hear me before I speak, that He knows what my heart can not find the words to say. In my shame I struggle to allow my brokenness to wash me up at the foot of the cross, but in my desperation I am learning to allow myself to be held by the One who loves me most.

People often tell me that I need to love myself before I can be loved. I used to interpret that as meaning that no one could ever love me until I could love myself. But that’s not the case. The lack of love I have for myself in no way prevents others from loving me, they still love me. The only thing it prevents is my ability to feel loved. I can be loved without feeling loved. I can be loved without believing I am loved. Isn’t that a tragic reality?

Imagine going through life being loved unconditionally, but living with that love constantly just out of reach? I’d usually blame myself and say it’s my own fault for not allowing myself to drown in the love I so deeply yearn for, but sitting here I actually pity myself. I can remember so vividly moments over the years where love was used as a weapon, as a tool for bribery and as something I needed to earn. As time went on, my view of love became more and more distorted. It’s that distortion that prevents me from taking hold of the love that’s currently barely an arms length away. There’s love all around me, perhaps not always from the people whose love I’ve longed for, but there’s still love and it’s still precious. I habitually seem to keep bringing the concept of love back to God, and the ways in which He has shown me love.. perhaps that’s just because God is Love.

The more I seek God, the more I begin to understand and the more I learn to trust His love. God’s love isn’t like the seasons, it doesn’t change.

There’s lyrics that read; “to be loved, and love at the highest count, means to lose all the things I can’t live without.. let it be known, that I will choose to lose.. I’m so afraid, but I’m open wide”..

As those words have circled through my mind over the past week, I have wondered how they might translate to my relationship with God. My heart of hearts yearns to be loved and it is, I am loved, at the highest of counts. God paid the highest price to show His love for His children, Jesus died because He loves us. Perhaps the losses that come with change, are a sacrifice I need to make in order to realign myself with God as the centre of my life? Perhaps the things, the people, I feel that I can’t live without, are those I need to lose in order to realise I won’t truely lose them if I gain God? Once I have tied my sense of absolute safety and security to God’s unconditional love for me, then I will see that I am still loved by T, and those whom I have stood to lose; I’ll never lose them, I’ll only gain God too.

To love myself the way God loves me is the ultimate goal because that is what will undo the chains that keep me held captive. God wants to answer my prayer from a few weeks ago that I blogged on, he wants the undoing to unfold, but maybe that means I need to allow Him to bring change. Change is coming, and I already feel raw but I also feel an abundance of peace. As I stood in church this morning I realised that somewhere over the past 3 days, a weight lifted and it was then that I knew that what lays ahead will near break me, but that God will be carrying me in His unconditional love.

– c x (28.11.2021)

the undoing .

Undo within me, all that is not of you, Dear Lord. Allow for all that has held me captive, to be undone. As You shatter the deep rooted beliefs that have falsely shaped my perception, as You break through the lies that have enslaved me to a life of earning love, as You interlace my story with Your own — thus begins the undoing.

If I were to start writing this post on my own, I’m afraid I wouldn’t know where to begin. My heart hasn’t had words to write for a few months now and my mind itself has been periodically wading through a season of cognitive deprivation. I told T on Friday that following a chat with E about sitting in faith, I wished I could sit down to write again but that I couldn’t because I wasn’t emotionally or physically ready. However it wasn’t until I sat in church this morning, thickly surrounded in love, when I realised that I didn’t need to be ready as much as I needed to be willing; I needed to simply be willing to allow God to openly speak through me.

The human in me longs to paint for you the most beautiful picture of where I am in this present moment: alone on a picnic blanket, blonde curls dripping water onto my soft lilac silk dress, two ducks swimming in the ponds to my right, bees and butterflies navigating their ways through the colours of spring, each and every imaginable flower blooming around me, the distant rustle of the gentle wind between the tall forests that engulf my home and the suns warmth on my skin. Perfect, isn’t it? Yet whilst that exact painted picture is indeed precisely where I sit now as I write, it isn’t the whole truth. What I haven’t disclosed is that my knuckles are still red from throwing up, I just took several laxatives out of fear, my body is bruised and aching, the scars on my legs are a constant painful reminder, my Morrison silk dress lays stained on my bedroom floor from my 4am return home last night and I am all too fragile. Not so perfect anymore, is it?

However, I am learning now, as the atmosphere grows cold and I wander up the stairs to wrap myself in blankets, that in life, the lack of perfection doesn’t take away from the greater awe. Yes, perhaps life right now is far from perfect, but that doesn’t take away from who God is or the power that He has. T spoke to me about fearing God, up until today I have been truely terrified but this afternoon as I now sit in bed watching the tree tops glow, I am not afraid of God but I do have a growing understanding of what a healthy fear looks like; awe. Despite how I have felt recently, I am not a hypocrite for going to church this morning or any other morning, nor am I a hypocrite for dwelling in the presence of God in my garden. I couldn’t be more honest though if I told you that where I have dwelled today is beyond polar opposite to where I dwelled last night or the recent weeks passed.

It was 3:36am this morning when I hopped into my car, heavily under the influence and physically shaking uncontrollably. The drive home felt unsafe and longer than ever before, but as much as I knew I shouldn’t be driving, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere other than in the safety of home; I needed the brick walls, the engulfing trees, the isolation and tangible reassurance that no one would find me. I got home and when I saw the deep red stains down the front of my beautiful Morrison silk dress, I sobbed; not for the dress that cost hundreds, but for the girl who wore it. I looked in the mirror and the girl who looked back at me was a devastating sight; smudged lipstick, tear streaked mascara, sticky hair and eyes that held the weight of the world — lost, very very lost. That girl has developed an unhealthy dependency upon alcohol and the numbness that comes with it, she has done many things to put herself in harms way, like laying intoxicated on highways in the dead of night, but nothing like what she allowed to happen last night. In a state of vulnerability and drunkenness, she found her body being carried toward the men’s bathroom by four men. As their aroused bodies pressed up against her, her own body froze and goosebumps covered each inch. They each whispered their own lies. As one held her, two touched her everywhere and the other grazed her face with his beard. Her mouth was forced open and bourbon was poured in before one man pushed his tongue down her throat as if he could suck the bourbon back out. Tears, a lot of tears but her body knew the game all too well and to stay safe it instinctively became the object they craved, as her soul dissociated and detached from the situation. If it weren’t for the security guard who blocked the toilet door, I can only imagine what would have happened. The men moved me out of sight and shoved their fingers and hands in places that were not theirs to touch, they led me out to the streets and started to try penetrate but by God’s grace two security guards stopped them and as I was freed, I ran into the women’s bathroom where two girls helped me into a stall. The three of us stood in a small stall, vaped smoke filled the atmosphere and I can’t remember what they said but their voices were gentle and the men were gone. I was a pitiful sight to see and as my head hit my pillow that night, my first thought was that maybe E was right, maybe I am a danger to myself and maybe I don’t know how to keep myself safe. My second thought was about how disappointed God, T and everyone else would be in me if they found out. I fell asleep with my heart still racing, my body still shaking and the traumatic experience brought back each other trauma.

Last Sunday I went to church raw because the Sunday prior to that I was stalked and left unconscious next to my car, a mans bodily fluids mixed with my blood over my body and my torn clothes, bruised and alone. I remember turning up to church feeling very unsure and unsafe, the whole service I sat close to T and during worship I stood against her and behind her, sheltered and reserved. I sobbed through that Sunday service, and when I went to go visit my family I was met with abuse and told that they no longer were my family, nor was I allowed to associate with them. A week passed and I went to church again this morning. I rose to an alarm after a mere few hours of broken sleep, I dressed myself and put some lipstick and mascara on, I drove to church and met T and her family. T complimented my lipstick and I smiled inside because despite everything and unlike the times before, this morning my makeup was for me and not to cover up. During worship I stood beside T, I still cried but this time I didn’t stand behind her in fear. You see, over these last two weeks alone, God has been subtly revealing Himself to me. I have been through the motions with Him; anger, sorrow, fear, doubt.. and now awe, love and gratitude.

There is genuinely no explanation that I can give you to explain why I was able to go to church this morning, I don’t know how I woke up or mustered the courage to step foot into God’s presence. The only explanation is God Himself, isn’t He the answer to everything? I think of those rusted bolts from the farm, His love; long, short, far, wide, deep, thick, tangible and always there. I am learning to accept the truth that I am loved, because I am loved. And I’m not saying that in a vain manner, but rather in a state of realisation and overwhelming gratefulness. Over this last week S, E and T have expressed love for me during appointments. I finally met with H for coffee again, she also expressed her love for me. The last thing T said to me after I hugged her at church last Sunday was that God loves me. Today I stood with little L in my arms and since she met me at the beginning of the year, she has been besotted with me in the most innocent way. C came to hug me after church and expressed her love for me. I won’t tell you that I understand how or why others choose to love me, but that isn’t for me to understand, it is just for me to accept. It’s like T has told me over and over again: “Just let God love you”. I am learning to let others love me and I am learning to allow myself to experience that love.

In worship today we sang the words; ‘God of my present, God of my future, You write my story, You hold it all together’. Before allowing myself to fully surrender to God, I asked T if God could still write our stories, even if we make bad decisions. In the moments that followed throughout the service I felt my bricks come undone as I asked God to undo within me, all that was not of Him. Last Sunday God began unravelling me but in fear I hid from Him and closed myself off out of anger and confusion. Today I stood boldly in His presence and silently gave Him the title of Author over my story. I asked God if the trauma and the bad things were things that He had written into my story, but they aren’t. God doesn’t write pain, that isn’t His plan for us. Though He does write the aftermath if we choose to let Him. As humans we have the choice of free will and because of our choices and the choices of others, pain inevitably enters into our stories. God is showing me that just because pain has entered into my story, it doesn’t mean He has decided to throw it away because it’s ‘ruined’.. no, instead God is showing me the ways in which He writes Himself into that pain and how He transforms my painful story into His story of hope, faithfulness and breakthroughs.

Do you know how many testimonies have already come from my story? Each post on this blog holds testimonies of who God is. The very fact that those men didn’t gang rape me last night is a testimony to God’s faithfulness, because if God wasn’t faithful to me then it would have been so much more than sexual assault that took place. The fact that I am in a safe home right now tells of God’s provision over me. I have tried to take my own life countless of times, but I am still here and that shows that God has a plan for me. Ps Norm reminded us this morning that God has a plan for each of us, one to give us hope and a future — Jeremiah 29:11 was the verse that came in last weeks church email and that was honestly the only reason I even went to church because 6 days post SARC all I had was questions for God. I may not have my parents anymore, but as the months have passed T’s family have become like family, H has become like family and there are people that God has written into my story who love me, that alone is testament to His own love for me.

For the days and weeks to come, I now sit amidst the storm in faith. I am broken, I am hurting and I am raw. But in the undoing, I choose to believe that God will bring restoration to my brokenness.

– c x (07.11.2021)

the days to follow .

[Notice— This post I had begun with the intentions of releasing on the anniversary of when I first gave my heart back to God. However despite it being on my heart to write, I no longer plan to write for quite some time to come. My pursuit of God is too fragile to disregard and if it is to strengthen then it requires full devotion. I will write again, in fact I suspect I will begin writing sooner than I anticipate, but for now this here is my final and very unfinished post— there was much more but most I deleted and the rest I never finished writing]

Sixty-five [11] days ago I published a post that highlighted the ways in which God had been revealing Himself to me amidst my suffering. We had made it to 300 days since I had given my heart back to God and when I published that final post, I had no idea what would come in the days to follow.. let alone the hours. Had the last 300 days been enough to prepare me for the 65 days to follow?

The hours that passed came first. My post was published in the evening and it couldn’t have been more than eight hours laster, an hour or so past midnight, when everything changed… Cold. Dark. Alone. Footsteps. Fear. Beating heart. Heavy breathing. Hands. Trapped. Pain. Cries. Helplessness. Loss of power. Unwanted skin. Deep pain. Pressure. Disorientation. Defeat. Rape… again. There was no one to go to, no one to hold me and no one to protect me.

The days.. Day 1 was the easiest. Between my poker face smiles and my distress meltdowns behind closed doors with T, the first day was somewhat a success. As the sun rose, the sight of myself was enough to make me nauseous. As I stood unclothed on the icy bathroom tiles, my lungs were yet to remember how to draw breath and my jaw had long since remainded tightly clenched. To cover the blackness of my face, I applied makeup; As if that itself was enough to cover up what had happened only hours earlier. I dressed in one of my staple Morrison dresses, I put over it a heavy woollen coat and I curled my hair. When I lifted my eyes to meet my reflection in the mirror, I smiled. For a few minutes I practiced that smile, I rehearsed my lines and I fell back into the all too familiar routine of suppression. I pushed aside the evergrowing desire to crawl into a state of nonexistence because I had prearranged commitments and I wasn’t about to let anyone down. TC’s mom had been planning a girls morning out for the two of us all week, TR had asked me to model for one of her photoshoots, and H was expecting me to go to dinner and connect group with her. From a practical point of view I knew what needed to be done behind the scenes in the days to follow: blood and urine tests, the morning after pill and eventually a pregnacy test. The day was back to back busy enough to avoid eating until after 8pm that night and even then the half salad I ate was hard to stomach. The more my emotions surfaced, the harder I worked to suppress them further. I put myself to bed just after 11pm and for the next 4 hours I tossed and turned in the dark. My phone lit up to reveal it was 3.24am.. it had been a full day and the knowledge of that haunted me until I fell asleep.

Day 2 was one of the hardest days. I woke to a deep gasp as my voice forgot how to scream aloud, it was nearly dawn. In the hour or two that I slept, I had nightmares that haunted me for weeks to follow. Nightmares by that stage were a regular, after all it was Thursday and since the previous Saturday I had had consecutive nightmares each and every night. However until the first night after the assault, all the nightmares played on past events, but that night they were all too real. I’ve spent the last 65 [11] days unable to be alone near my father and unable to hold eye contact or conversation; in my dream I was a little girl again, my mind replayed memories of my father dehumanising me, mocking me and following me to my room as I ran for safety, he would close the door like clockwork and the lights would dim, the silence would become deafening as nothing but heavy breathing and muffled cries filled the room, I needed to be quiet because there were people in the other rooms, I could feel the roughness of his thick fingers and the brutal skin to skin contact that followed. I gasped and woke. Trembling I carried myself to the bathroom and dressed myself as best I could, my hair was now half curled, my eyes were heavy, the makeup had rubbed off and my clothes covered my body so that no skin could be seen. I hated every inch of my being and the blame game begun, mounds of guilt and shame manifested themselves into each crevice of my being. I decided then and there that I wouldn’t allow myself to feel anymore; I would be numb becuase I knew that if I allowed the emotions to come, they would overwhelm me and I wouldn’t be able to survive that.

I knew that T had left a form for me at the front desk so that was my first priority, I needed to know that my body was okay. As I pulled up to the carpark, unexpectedly, so did T. Fear. As much as I was flooded with a sense of safety, I was also overrun with fear; I hadn’t told her everything, I didn’t want to see her, I wasn’t sure how to speak and the distress from the day before was enough for me to avoid eye contact. I left my car and started walking but it was too late, she had seen me and waved. I stopped to wait for her and in my numbness I built walls between the two of us, I couldn’t fathom what it would be like to let my guard down infront of her because as much as she has seen of me in the past, I couldn’t be held accountable for how I would present in a state of vulnerability. We ended up sitting down for little over half an hour that morning and aside from increasing nausea, I managed to remain guarded with minimal vulnerability. A wealth of emotions presented in small forms throughout our time together; hurt, pain, sadness, guilt, shame, anger, confusion, betrayal, loss, fear. I in all honesty don’t remember a lot of what we spoke about because between my raw distress and dissociation, I didn’t take a lot in. However I remember T saying that she hadn’t changed, she hadn’t moved, her view of me hadn’t shifted, her love and care hadn’t gone and she herself hadn’t left. I didn’t understand that and I didn’t know how to accept it. You see, she has said those very same things about God before and dare I say she was wrong? Sitting there with her I sobbed asking her where God was. Anger rose inside of me becuase He had left, He no longer cared, He was nowhere to be found, His love and care was absent, He was gone.. God was gone.. And after the traumatic view I had of my earthly father, I for the life of me couldn’t see God as my Heavenly Father. My jaw trembled throughout the majority of my time with T, from fear and a deep sadness that I tried so hard to suppress; it felt like the earthquake that comes before a tsunami. Our time ended with me crying in her arms and leaving so unsure of what would happen in the weeks to come.

I later found myself pacing up and down the isles in the chemist, passing time while I waited for my safe pharmacist assistant to emerge. When she came to me, I shook as I handed her the script for levonorgestrel. She lodged it for me and when she told me they didn’t have that specific one on stock, my voice broke as I asked her what else I could do. Her words faded as tears swelled in my eyes, I didn’t hear what she said and she looked up at me she saw my emerging distress. She sat me down and offered me a cup of tea, I couldn’t speak as I tried to hold onto what little dignity I had left in the middle of the chemist. Eyes watched me as the pharmacist came out and promised to sort everything out. I was humiliated and it was nearing 40 hours since the assault; I had stopped taking the pill weeks ago and couldn’t imagine what would happen if I was pregnant [I still can’t]. Time passed and when I got back to the home I was staying in, I took the pills and waited. I’d done everything I could, all could do now was wait for the weeks to pass before I would know for sure that my body was okay. As I layed on the bathroom tiles nearing midnight, the nausea had finally turned to throwing up and the self destruction hit harder than expected; I looked at the ring I had bought to symbolise my promise to pursue God above all else and in a moment of bitterness, I removed the ring and it would be 10 days before I put that ring back on.

By day 4 I was standing in church next to T. I felt most insecure as I stood beside her with curly hair that nor she or anyone else in church had ever seen before; I had mustered the strength to shower that morning, but the notion of straightening my hair was too much to bare, so for the first time in all the years I’d been going to church, I went with curly hair (trivial but the cherry on top of all else at hand). Pepp began and I remember trying not to fall apart whilst fighting the urge to run away. I didn’t think that being there would be as hard as it was on that first Sunday. As pepp drew to an end we split off into small groups to pray; I paired with T. As she prayed, ‘thank you Dear Lord that you are always with us, that you never leave us’, her words played on repeat for hours, a broken record. The remainder of the service was hard and it wouldn’t be until my birthday that I returned to church. After church I went back to my families home to grab some warmer clothes, my timing was poorly chosen and I walked into a war zone. As brutal fists collided with my body and unspeakable things were spoken over me, I left with more than what I’d bargained for. As I walked out the front door, I was told to go to hell but what wasn’t known was that I’d already been there all week.

I felt so betrayed by God because I had loved Him so deeply, you have all read and watched as I’ve fallen in love with Him for the first time; But where was His love for me? That afternoon I went to look for His love, I drove out to the riverside for the 3rd time since the assault but like both times before: I turned my car around before reaching the dirt road because I was too afraid to be in the very place where I used to meet God. I wasn’t sure that He would come and that abandonment wasn’t one I could to expose my heart to. As 8pm turned to 9pm and then to 10pm, followed by 11pm; I was still sitting by the riverside. I’d gone there as a last resort to be held, on my 4th visit I drove down the dirt road and parked my car in the same place I had many times before. I searched for God but my heart couldn’t find Him. As I laid my head back, I gazed at the starts and it seemed almost cruel that the first stars I saw formed a cross. The cross. Wasn’t that the breakthrough concept God gave me when I found that rusted bolt on the farm? Didn’t He tell me that in times where I doubted His love for me, all I needed to do was look to the cross? In shame I looked away. The sky was clear for the first night in a while, the river was glass and reflected the trees along the banks. In nothing but silence, I sat and waited to be safely held in a world that seemed everything but safe. The last person to hold me was T, by then that was a few days ago and before that it was weeks. My heart wrestled with the choice between breaking through or breaking apart; was there a way through this suffering that would bring forth new, deeper revelations of Gods love?

The remainder of the days that followed the assault were brutal, the nightmares were brutal and the lack of God’s presence was the most brutal aspect of all. God, how could He let this happen? He knew how much I was struggling.. Why did He allow for the trauma to once again become so tangible and present? Why did each night hold a new nightmare, never too different from the last but always a different man and a different scene? Why did each shadow in the dark present itself as a threat? Why did I feel so unsafe: alone at home, driving on the roads, walking through the shops? Where was God.. where was He? That same darn question. That same question. In my last post we reached 300 days and God revealed to me that when I asked that question, all I needed to do was look to the cross because there was no greater sign of His love for me. But as I held that old bolt once again, the cross didn’t seem to be enough. I hate myself for even writing that, let alone admitting it, because how dare I say that God’s biggest act of love wasn’t enough? I don’t have an answer, I just know that in my most raw feelings of hurt and betrayal, nothing was enough to convince me that God was still there.

As the days have passed, I’ve gradually remembered small pieces of my time with T on day 2 and I remembered being so infuriated with her for sitting before me and telling me that she knew God was still there. I felt that there wasn’t a more cruel thing that she could say to me because sitting there in those first crucial days, I couldn’t disagree more. It’s been 65 [11] days and I’m still wrestling with the concept of God always being there, this may very well be a concept I wrestle with for many years to come but I will endeavour to hold onto it for as long as I can.

On the 7th night I knew I needed God more than ever before, I was ready to believe; I just needed to be sure that He was still there and that He still loved me. I asked T and I was convinced that hearing her say it one more time would be enough, that then I’d finally be able to believe and I could be vulnerable with God. It turns out it wasn’t that easy. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. You see, it was all well and fine for T to believe that God still loved me, but that was her faith. The same goes with Ann Voskamp; I can read a billion pages in her books and God can use them to make Himself known to me, but at the end of the day that’s still her faith.. God keeps showing me that I can’t solely pursue Him through the faith of others. I was grateful for T’s honesty, but it would take more than her words for me to truely believe; I needed my own faith.

As the seventh day turned into the early morning hours, it became one week since the assault and ever so cruelly: it was the 19th of August. Day 8 held a wealth of tears, all the numbness wore off and the skin on my thighs tore until my hands shook to much to continue; the world around me went black, as my body went numb. I had never felt so heavy and there was no one. Anger and blame toward God overwhelmed my heart, suddenly I wanted nothing to do with Him and on that day I allowed myself to drown in self destruction. For the first time this year, all I wanted was to die. I couldn’t imagine how I would make it through this season and I for the life of me couldn’t understand why God was making me break; one soul crushing thing after the next.

Between day 8 and day 10, I stood to lose more than I had bargained for and I had never felt more alone. Where has this left me with God and my pursuit of Him?

With all God had revealed to me about vulnerability and surrender, I set out on the 10th day to meet with Him. I drove to Bremer alone in the early hours of dawn, whilst driving I went through the motions with my Father; crying, screaming, praying, silence. In my mind I was going to Bremer to meet God, I had an agenda and thought I was searching for Him but in hindsight I think I was searching for answers. You see, all along in the deep of my heart I knew exactly where God was, I knew He wasn’t tied to a place, I knew He was always there— But what I didn’t know, was how He could still ask for my heart after all the brokenness He allowed? How could He expect me to be okay with still loving Him with all of me, when He just spent the last 10 days taking my love and every thing that I held dear to me? How could He call Himself my Father, and then abandon me and betray me the way He did? How could He take those around me and leave me alone after the unspeakable things He stood by and allowed to happen? How broken did He want me to become? How could I meet with the One who broke me so? How could I be vulnerable in my brokenness? How could I allow myself to be safely held by the One my heart angered so deeply against? How could God love me after everything I’ve felt in shame toward Him? Would He even meet me if I asked Him to? Would He restore what He broke? If I gave Him all of me, would He fix everything for me?

I see the flaws in my questions, don’t worry, I do. I think my biggest flaw is the lack of perception toward the fact that God actually doesn’t owe me anything. Everything that is now broken; my heart, my faith, my relationships, my body— all of what is broken, belongs to Him. I had given Him all of that when I last chose the wholehearted way and what He chose to do with it was His decision to make. It would be so cruel for me to only give God all of me, on the condition that He give me what I want in return; that’s not how our faith works. Something else I lost sight of was the concept Ann Voskamp put forth: there is no room for blame amidst brokenness. It’s not God’s fault, it’s not the strangers fault, it’s not my teams fault, it’s not T’s fault, it’s not my families fault.. and no, it’s not my fault either. You see, if I spiral down the chasm of blame, I risk loosing sight of what I can gain from this. As brutal and as freaking broken as I am, where I stand now, I stand the possibility to gain all of God. If I could gain all of God, then would I not have all I need?

It’s been 55 [1] days since my day in Bremer where God pierced through my bricks and held me in my big emotions. I remember sitting, holding the rusted bolt from the farm, overlooking the endless sea, in Our special place: I found Him there, I knew again then that I’d find Him anywhere because in His word [Matthew 7:7-8], He told me that those who seek shall find and to those whom knock the doors would be opened; I knocked at the walls of my heart and God opened up for me.

Arriving in Bremer I drove another hour onward to Point Ann, there I hiked and stood on the edge of a cliff. The wind blew strongly as I neared closer to the edge, there I had two choices: I could stay in control or I could give God control through vulnerable wholehearted surrender. Both choices felt like suicide but as the wind blew I yelled at my Father. How could He who calls me His Beloved, allow such brokenness because Love doesn’t do what He did? How can He tell me He has a plan for me that won’t harm me but that would bring me hope, when all I felt was hopeless and hurt? Who was He to take all of what I had to offer, and then proceed to take what I couldn’t stand to lose? How could He think that stripping me raw would lead me nearer to Him? Why would I want anything to do with Him? Where was He?

I posed those questions toward God and so much more, I laid forth the most deep and awful truths from the deep of my raw heart. I then began to boldly and wrongfully challenge God, I told Him that if He was there then He would calm the strong winds because that was an impossible task and what He was asking of me (for Him to be my only one) was also an impossible task after everything that had happened. In response, the wind blew only stronger and I fell to my feet involuntarily, thrown to the ground I had never been that close to death. My body teetered on the edge of the cliff, overhanging the thousands of shards that laid beneath. In that exact moment I felt a wealth of anger toward God, I laughed at Him and sarcastically told Him that it appeared He had me right where He wanted me: on my knees in surrender. He didn’t give me the answer I wanted, He didn’t calm the wind, but you see that’s the thing about God, he doesn’t owe me anything; He just asks for full surrender and sometimes that surrender comes involuntarily but without it there is no life or hope. God had humbled me and I found myself fallen at the foot of the cross. In anger I told my Father that if we had any hope for a relationship, then He would need to do the intial work because I didn’t want anything to do with Him after what He’d allowed to happen to me. I told God that He would have to take my bricks and He would need to pierce through my walls. As I whispered out to Him my voice broke and the tears came in abundance, I told God I needed Him and as the tears rolled down my cheeks I told Him it was okay to take my bricks, I told Him that as hurt and as angry and as confused as I was [still am], I didn’t need to know what He was doing in order to know that I needed Him and I asked Him to take my heart and make it His home once again, I prayed for forgiveness and a softening toward Him, I prayed that God would help me to want Him more than I wanted to run away from Him. I once again wholeheartedly surrendered and gave everything to my Father, boldly hoping that this time I wouldn’t be faced with the same brokenness I was last time I chose the wholehearted way.

In the moment when I chose once again the wholehearted way, my eyes rested upon the most paper thin shard of rock, held on the edges cliff by merely 3 blades of grass. There is no scientific or logical explanation for how that fragile shard hadn’t long since blown off the edge into a hopeless nothingness. God showed me that I was that shard; fragile but held by Him. I cry still as I recall that because it was such a profound moment where God revealed to me that I was held by Him; even in my brokenness and fragility, when I am all alone I am still held by Him. The very fact that He still met me and that He still loved me despite what had happened to me and what I had done and felt in response, that very fact will never cease to amaze me. Even when I am least worthy, still He calls me His own.

In present tense now-

I went for a walk this afternoon, alongside the river where I now go again, I met with God and for an hour we spoke. I gave to Him my hearts most raw emotions, over and over again I petitioned them unto Him and asked in return for a safety and security that comes only from Him. We addressed the uncertainty that lays before me in my relationships, the prospect of pregnancy, the toll in my recovery, how I would heal and my pursuit of Him. God brought my attention back to the manuscript the two of us had been writing. The manuscript is near finished and I’ve prayerfully began researching potential publishers. But what God brought me back to was the concept of broken pottery. You see, when a Potter creates their masterpiece, it is flawless, but when their masterpiece shifts out of alignment with their will, they break and remould that piece until it again aligns with what they created it to be. In that same way, God created me and as soon as my alignment with Him shifts, He allows for brokenness so that I may become mouldable. God uses my brokenness to draw me back to a full dependence upon Him.

Over these past 11 days I have learned new aspects of who God is. You see, in the initial days I was at first so angry that I ran from God, I took back my wholehearted surrender and turned from Him because “how dare He”… oh golly, turns out it was more “how dare I”.. it took nearly losing my life on the edge of the cliff, for me to come face to face with the justness of God. Because as much as He is a loving God, a patient God and a forgiving God.. He is also a jealous God, a just God and a righteous God. It comes back to that beautiful concept of a trembling adoration. As soon as I lose that trembling adoration, that healthy fear of God and His power.. then in justness and righteousness He will of course allow for brokenness so that He can humbly bring me back to the foot of the cross. It took the reality of us all only being human for me to realise again that God is the only one I can depend on; not anyone or anything other than God. He does not allow hurt or suffering out of spite, He has purpose and His just filled decisions come from a place of love. His love is more divine and unconditional than my own love, or anyone else’s love.

At one point I began praying specifically about my relationship with T, there was so much hurt there and so many unanswered questions. I told God that I couldn’t understand why He’d bless me with a lifelong relationship and then take it days after trauma in such a cruel way. I didn’t know whose decision it was, how it came about, what others thought of me due to the decision, how T felt about it or how she could tell me that both her and God loved me, but in that same breath walk away without a word; All I knew was that she was gone and there was no-one else. There wasn’t one moment where I felt anger toward T, granted I felt things could have been handled more gently, but the only anger I ever felt was toward God. The last time I saw T she had told me that we would always be okay, she has always said she wouldn’t walk away, everything she’s ever done has been out of love and care for me, so how could I be mad at her? By the second day there was no distress, I knew a time would come where we would sit down and chat so I continued to hold hope that all would be okay. On one hand I now look back and wonder if what happened between T and myself was a blessing in disguise because it reinforces what God revealed to me many Sundays ago: He needed to be the One I went to first, T would be the one I shared with when I saw her in person, not in between because the says in between were solely God’s days; every day is God’s day. There is no way for me to pursue God wholeheartedly if He is not my number One.

Didn’t God know I already had no one? It was when I asked Him that question that He convicted me in the most vividly tangible way, that right there was the fault in thinking and the answer to everything: I had Him. God’s been showing me that I don’t need to understand, I just need to trust Him and seek Him through the deep pain. J told me that, nearly 3 years ago now, she said that all God asks of me is that I seek Him through the deep pain because He wants to meet me there. After all these years I’m still learning that lesson.

You see, a long time ago I told God that if something in my life, whether it be a desire, a relationship or a situation, if it doesn’t bring me closer to Him then I told Him it is of no value to me and I don’t want it. I told God that if that same something ever became more important to me than He was, then it wouldn’t be something that brought Him glory and therefore I didn’t want it either. It quickly occurred to me that whilst I’d long forgotten that prayer, God hadn’t. I wondered if perhaps that was why so many desires, areas and relationships in my life had been falling apart lately; it wasn’t only T. However in my recent weeks of increasing emotional distress, I admit that I had within myself begun noticing more red flags between T and myself, signs of a reminiscent unhealthy relationship and I grew more fearful. I tried to ignore those signs but knew deep down that my desire to draw near to God was weakening as I began putting my relationship with T above Him; she was a tangible sense of safety and during those weeks God was not. I have seen time and time again, even as a child, that each time I wrongfully or accidentally put anyone above God, both I and that other person suffer some type of consequence so that God is given back His rightful place; whether it be distance in that relationship, the end of the relationship etc. Whilst I still wish things had turned out differently, I am strangely grateful for where I am now in all relationships. I have once again found my safety and security in God, I know that He is still my Home and that even if things are not okay, He will give me what I need to get through and He will carry me where my feet can not. God has shown me that as much as I love people like T or R: I do not need them more than I need Him, as blessed as I still am to invest and carry out a lifelong relationship with my same people: it is my eternal relationship with God that I need to invest in first. It’s been a brutal process time and time again but I now realise exactly what T meant on the afternoon where she drew a line in the air from ourselves up to God: the relationship we have with Him is most important.

These words are not at all superficial, they carry weight and depth, they are lessons God has taught me and lessons that I have no doubt He will continue to remind me of over the years to come. We are all only human and we will never be perfect, thankfully God doesn’t ask for perfect, He simply asks for us to choose the wholehearted way.

In my deep brokenness, I will endeavour to seek God, I will continue to fall in love with the One who loves me, I have chosen the wholehearted way and no matter what is to come I will hold onto the truth that God still loves me and He is always there: even when I can’t see Him, He will carry me and give me what I need to get through; The cross is enough, His love is enough- it will always be enough.

– c x (22.08.2021)

the whole hearted way .

It’s been 300 days since I gave my heart back to God and for the last 192 days He has challenged and questioned every set ideation I had around what it meant to be His daughter. I googled ‘what it means to be a daughter’ and ironically the first page that came up was ‘what does it mean to be a daughter of Christ’. I opened it and the article began by retelling the story of the only woman in the bible that Jesus ever called His daughter. This woman was an outcast for more than 12 years, she lived each day without knowing the love from another and then her life changed when Jesus called her His own. I can’t pretend to know what this woman went through because I have known love over these last 21 years but I also can’t say that I ever really knew love until I knew God’s love; though I’m not sure I have allowed myself to know His love. The article went on to say that being a daughter of God means that we have a forever Father in Heaven, One who will never leave even if we disappoint Him time and time again. It said that being a daughter of God means that we have the greatest love one could ever provide; a full, unconditional and eternal love. I’m sitting here crying because I don’t know how many times I need to purposely ‘let God love me’. I keep finding myself overwhelmed, feeling unwanted and unloved, questioning where God is and why I can’t feel Him. Worship music is playing as I write this and the lyrics fittingly sing ‘when I feel abandoned and lost on my own, You are my home’. What happened to that concept? How could I forget what God so faithfully revealed to me in my week alone with Him [last admission]? My God, my Home.

My hearts been searching for God. Do you remember getting lost as a child, separated from your family? I remember when I was only little, we were visiting our family farms in Snymansbult along the Noordkaaprivier when we one morning decided to head up to Kruger park. We went through Barberton and stopped at a PicknPay near the ‘Jock of die Bushveld’ statue, whilst inside the shop I got separated from the rest of the family. I’ll never forget the way my stomach dropped when I realised I couldn’t find anyone I knew. Going up and down the isles I was frantically looking for a familiar face; everything inside of me yearned to be safe again, to be found and embraced. I found my family in the end but there was still that lack of love that my heart still yearned for. 

The reason I shared that memory is because I have been experiencing that same deep yearning, only this time it’s been for a deeper, more profound love; God’s love. I feel like a child because I keep searching for God, searching for His love as if I could find Him in some tangible place. I’m painfully aware that God isn’t attached to a place. Over these past weeks I have battled greatly and I think T put it well when she said that it’s been terrifying, because I previously haven’t allowed myself to experience the magnitude of emotions I have been wrestling with. It’s been hard and even the most simple forms of self care; showering and eating, has felt impossible and in that I’ve been rudely reminded about the fine line my body still teeters upon between healing and crumbling. The vast absence of my safely trapped has hit me like a tidal wave and I haven’t once been prepared for it. Of course I knew that stepping out of my safely trapped would be uncomfortable and difficult to begin with, but I counted on being safely held and protected. Unfortunately, I am yet to experience being safely held to its full extent. I’ll forever come back to T’s concept of just ‘letting God love me’ because allowing myself to be loved [safely held] amidst the distress of shame and worthlessness, will continue to be one of my greatest battles. In my deep yearning for God’s profound and unconditional love, I recently ventured out to the riverside in search of Him. I laid on a blanket and listened, waiting for an invitation to be safely held, waiting for God to meet me there with His divine lingering love. The rapids moved quickly but gracefully, the clouds followed suit and before I knew it: I fell asleep there, watching and waiting. I didn’t know why God wasn’t meeting me, the other night T told me that He is always with me but I don’t understand because lately He’s been harder to find and harder to feel.

My battle against Gollum has lately been more of a defeat than anything else but with each small win, I remind myself that though we are spiralling; we are in some way, shape or form, spiralling upward. I can sit here and beat myself up for all the times I’ve fallen short but the reality is that I’ve punished myself enough and I have to try to believe that God understands; He still loves me in my brokenness, doesn’t He? As blade collides with skin I wrestle wondering, can God still love me? Does self-harm make me any less of a Christian? Am I still allowed to be His daughter?

It’s a poisonous cycle, the one of self destruction. I find it’s a lonely one too because as I look around me, there is not one person I have felt able to honestly speak to over the last few weeks; those that were there, aren’t anymore and those who are there, aren’t approachable. I feel so alone and the more I venture back into my safely trapped, the further away from God I feel, the deeper the shame becomes and the more impossible it seems to go back to the Father. But I forget that He is my Father too. I’ve somehow come to view God as some unattainable figure but that isn’t who He is. God keeps finding ways to remind me that He is very much here, He is waiting to embrace me the way the prodigal son’s father embraced Him. I’m just struggling to grasp this with a confidence that allows me to be safely held and vulnerable.

I watched an interesting TedTalk that spoke about the power of vulnerability. The woman who spoke was Brene Brown, she is a research professor who has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. E and H have both shared her books and podcasts with me over time. In her talk she named ‘wholehearted vulnerability’ as the core birthing place of everything good in a relationship. Imagine being in a relationship where you are able to be vulnerable, wholly and deeply seen but still loved unconditionally. That’s the kind of relationship that God offers us, the kind of relationship that He offers me as His daughter; The problem? I’m afraid. I tried to explain to T that I have this deep yearning to sit in God’s presence, to just be with Him and spend time with Him— However, each time I go to do that, I feel weighed down by a heavy blanket of shame and fear. I feel numb but at the same time I feel everything so deeply, I don’t know how to do the whole vulnerability thing because it feels scarier now than it did before. As I kept listening to the TedTalk Brene went on to say that the things that make us vulnerable, make us beautiful. She said that vulnerability isn’t comfortable but it’s precious and necessary. Part of me wants to believe that I’m able to be vulnerable with God and that He would still love me, but I can not explain how terrified I am. It’s silly really because I’ve convinced myself that I can hide the deepest parts of myself away from God when in reality He’s already seen every piece of me— H and I discussed this over lunch last week. It’s been hard to be near to God over the last few weeks because in my weakness, instead of allowing His strength to be made known, I allowed my safely trapped to be my safe place again; I was too afraid to be safely held.

There’s a book I read, ‘She dared to call Him Father’, and it told the most remarkable story of a woman who found God for the first time. She told of how tangibly she felt God’s presence and how she could physically feel the Holy Spirit come and go. I remember being in awe of how close she was to God and I found myself wondering what was so wrong with me because I often feel so far away. Looking back I realise that she was wholly vulnerable with God, she quite literally opened every part of herself up to Him and gave Him all of her— she chose the wholehearted way. I don’t know how to do that. At the river that afternoon, I wanted so desperately to be tangibly in God’s presence but I couldn’t find Him. Though looking back I stand to question whether it was Him I couldn’t find, or if it was me so fixated on finding Him that I didn’t see He was right there all along? I think a lot of my ‘searching’ for God has been an excuse and distraction from the shame that’s prevented me from being vulnerable; from being safely held. 

You see, over the last few weeks God has made Himself known to me in various ways; a series of moments beckoning me toward a wholehearted pursuit of Him, toward the wholehearted way. Since that afternoon where I slept by the riverside, I have had to experience God in the most tangible and unexpected ways, before I could again find myself at the river; only this time everything had changed..

Between my two visits to the river, the first place God made Himself known to me was on a farm outside of town. I’d driven just shy of 2hrs to a farm in Mindarabin, I was there to look after a heavily pregnant dog. I went out with the intentions to pour myself into my studies and whilst I did study, I ended up spending four days on the farm searching for God like some silly lost child. The homestead I stayed in was big, made out of old bricks and raw wood. It had these large windows, thick oak cills with dust covered hinges. Above the dining room table was a metre by metre chandelier; a wooden wagon wheel with lightbulbs all around the circumference. The farm itself was large and I found myself feeling quite small; more lost than I’d been feeling over the last few months. But I’ll tell you now that there’s something indescribable about being alone, hours from anyone with acres of land around you; I can’t find the words to articulate what it is but I know it’s something deep and it’s not something you come across often in life. You may roll your eyes but I felt a bit like how I imagine Lucy would have felt when she stepped into Narnia for the first time.

A lot of my time was spent walking out on the farm, marvelling at God’s handiwork. I walked for miles through muddy crops of wheat and fields of canola. From the homestead all you could see was wheat, as far as the land stretched but as you walked further through the paddocks glimpses of yellow canola fields drew nearer. I spent hours and hours, over the four days, looking for God and for a way to be vulnerable with Him. Unfortunately I can’t yet declare that I found either, but I know that He made Himself known to me in various moments along my walks.

The wheat was only knee high but as the wind whistled through the green pastures, I was sure I could hear my Father whispering to me. I entered the pastures and stood in the wind: listening. For a moment I stopped searching and I waited for Him to meet me there. My heart felt a fleeting love, it was deep and that profound type of love I spoke of earlier. Only for a flicker of time did my heart truely feel that love, then as the pressing for vulnerability sank in: the doors of my heart slammed shut, leaving me yearning even more deeply for that love but in an abundance rather than fleetingly. That was the first time God made Himself known to me. The next time I experienced that profound love was a the next day when I walked through the fields of waist high canola. From the homestead I walked subconsciously for an hour before I stopped. Around me were just fields of yellow. It was the furthest I’d walked in one direction since being out on the farm and I realised then that it would be a good near 2 hrs before I’d make it back. There was nothing other than canola around me. I’d long since lost sight of the farm sheds, the silos and the wheat fields. No matter which way I turned, all I saw were little yellow flowers. I felt God liken His love to the canola; infinite and all surrounding. I wrestled with this concept because if His deep and profound love was all around me then why did I battle to feel it?

I kept walking through the yellow fields and the further I went, the deeper my boots began to sink with each step; clay. As my boots broke the ground I reflected on my own brokenness. I’ve heard humans be likened to clay in a biblical sense, where God moulds us like clay. Ann Voskamp often speaks of the need to be broken before we can be moulded. Was this what God was doing in me? I couldn’t understand because I thought He’d already allowed enough brokenness, I thought that He’d begun moulding me in February some nearly 200 days ago when He began His remarkable transformation of me? Did I at some point begin re-moulding myself and changing His handiwork? Has He found a need to allow more brokenness so that I can find myself once again surrendering myself to His hands so that He may once again mould me into His hands and His feet? Hands. I remembered then that whilst I was at the riverside, before I fell asleep, I washed my hands in the river and prayed that God would cleanse them and make them His own. At that point I was aware of the role my hands played in keeping me bound to my safely trapped, I was aware of my own fragility and aware that I needed to become one with God again. Nothing had changed as I stood in the clay amidst the canola, amidst God’s love; I still needed to become one with God. There my Father again made Himself known to me, ever so gently reminding me that I am His creation and in order to be His hands and feet, I need to vulnerably allow myself to be broken and moulded by Him. Could I trust the One who calls me His own?

The heavily pregnant dog and I kept walking as I pondered those questions and not long later, we couldn’t go further as a dam had flooded across the fields leaving everything substantially underwater. Turning around, I never did quite see just how far the land went but I suppose that’s a bit like God’s love.. as the canola, so His love, stretches around to every corner of our atmosphere with no end in sight. I doubled back and after a kilometre or so I turned left down the edge of another paddock. With the canola on one side and open fields with sheep on the other I walked toward the trees in the distance. At one point I stopped and giggled to myself as my boots sank into an unforeseen patch of manure. I smiled as I remembered a conversation T and I had about loving the notion of farm life but not being one to pursue it. Though I found myself quite content in the solitude of the farm, the manure was certainly something I could have gone without. My family has lived on farms for generations, we had too, but upon moving to Australia we traded paddocks for the city and I’ve spent the last 13 years anxiously awaiting the day I’d buy my own bit of land and escape once again. Anyway, back to the manure; I think that whole scenario in some way reflects where I am at in my journey. 

You see, I knew it wouldn’t be a smooth walk from leaving the hospital for the last time, to then fully recovering and being firmly grounded in my relationship with God. After all, it’s not that simple or straight forward; but I think part of me blindly wished it would be. I caught up with H for another study date the Monday I was due to meet Dr Coleman. I was sharing with her about my anxiety around seeing Coleman because the last time he saw me I was on psych with an NGT and no will to live. I told H that I wished my review was 7 weeks ago when things were still going well because then it would be easier. We discussed what I would say in the review and I was quite set on lying my way through because the thought of saying how brutal things have been, felt more impossible than I could bare. I’m not going to disclose details on here because I’m too ashamed to share them yet but I know that things hadn’t been this brutal on all fronts for a while now. H and I were chatting and aside from encouraging honesty and hyping me up, God used her to remind me of a lot of truths I’d been trying to lose sight of. H reminded me that God sees everything, He knows my story inside and out, beginning to end; and you know what? He loves me all the same. H reinforced that I can’t hide from God, I told her I’ve tried to convince myself that I can because I’ve been too ashamed to enter into His presence. She then reminded me of the cross and what Jesus did for me, she told me there is no greater love. Tears started to swell in my eyes and I told her I just didn’t know how to accept that love. H looked at me and what she said next made each hair on my body stand up; “just let God love you”. I smiled through the tears and told her the significance of those five words and how T said them to me for the first time in hospital last year. I shared with H about how God’s been showing me that it is a concept I’ll have to keep coming back to until I reach a point where I’m able to let Him love me unconditionally. H reminded me that sometimes it doesn’t matter how I feel because God’s love for me isn’t tied to my emotions; she’s not the first to have told me that and I know she’s not wrong either. The journey I’m on is hard but as Coleman said: “to get out of hell, you have to walk through the misery”. If I’m going to suffer, which is inevitable, then I would rather suffer well— I suppose it’s just not that easy at the moment. 

I lingered in the manure for a second longer and realised that I’ve spent the last 2 or so months stuck in that same manure. Along my journey I hit a patch where I allowed myself to be safely trapped and I became so blinded by the stench of my own suffering, that I lost sight of God and moved out of being safely held. As I consciously stepped out of that manure, I felt God calling me to simultaneously step out of the manure I’d been, not so safely, trapped in for months. I tried but it would take more to pull me out; it would take vulnerability and I wasn’t ready yet.

The next morning I woke to a sunrise that was literal gold, every room on the East side lit up with a deep glow. The last photo above was taken in my room, unedited and raw. As the atmosphere filled with the warmth of the sun, my heart likened it to the warmth of God’s love. This was yet another moment where He made Himself known to me. I set out for a walk later that morning, no cloud in sight but little did I know that by the time I neared the homestead again, I would be dripping from the rain and facing the most tangible crossroad between continuing the path I am on, or choosing the wholehearted way

There were several paddocks with herds of sheep that ran at the sight of my approach, their cries filled the atmosphere as they ran. I smiled when I saw a little lamb staggering behind the rest of the herd, because once again God had made Himself known to me. You see, I have been that lamb, I am that lamb, and still He waits for me, He leaves the herd to come back for me and He watches over my every stumbling step. There’s a little lamb down Prideaux that I pass some afternoons and it too reminds me that I belong to God. The dog and I continued to walk and we later entered a paddock that looked more like a forest than anything else and the blue sky above slowly disappeared behind the tall tree tops. The trees themselves were filled with bright coloured birds and I wished then that I’d listened to E and put more effort into learning the species of birds and their unique calls. The dog chased the birds and before I could be annoyed, God showed me the grace in that moment. You see, the dog in her protective nature perceived the birds as a threat and chased them away. In that same way, God is protective over us and He willingly fights our battles; if only we surrender them unto Him and allow Him to. 

God’s protection of me as my Heavenly Father is a concept I battle with so often, I battled it most recently over this past week. The question has always stood to ask where God was amidst the traumas that have taken place, or where He’s been each time they’ve come back to torment me. It’s quite easy enough to say that God has always been right there, and granted maybe He has but then the question stands to ask why He didn’t protect me throughout any of the traumas. Last week I found myself walking through a carpark at dusk, there were enough cars to consider it not abandoned but there was no one in sight. Everything inside of me tensed as I saw an older man coming toward me, as he drew nearer I hurried my step and he began loudly speaking about my body. I was quickly backed into a corner near the trolley bays and he was a matter of centimetres in front of me. He reached out toward me and kept talking about my figure as if I weren’t there. I ducked and ran— though that wasn’t anything significant I was still terrified and it brought back past flashbacks. Where was God? I thought back to a sticky note that T gave me when we last met, she’d written a list of things for me to look up and at the top of the list was Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still.” I wondered what that meant and then God showed me: I didn’t need to understand, I just needed to be still. I’m not sure if you remember but a while ago on a past post, I reflected on what it meant to just let God love me and the word let in Latin meant to sit. It’s the same concept here because being still requires me to just sit, to just be and find peace knowing that the battle is already won. What if my deepest desire to just sit with Jesus, at the foot of the cross, in my Fathers presence, was after all possible? What if God could look past my shame and love me regardless? What if I could boldly just let Him love me? 

I wandered aimlessly for quite a while and as time went on the clouds rolled in and the unforeseen rain finally fell upon the earth. The ground beneath me broke open to receive the rain, the way our hearts are designed to vulnerably break open and receive God’s love. With each step I took, I was working through everything that weighed heavily on my heart. I then stumbled across something that led to the most profound breakthrough I’ve experienced since June 13th. 

As I looked to the ground, I stumbled across an old bolt that is now carried everywhere with me as a reminder of the breakthrough that came, so tangibly bursting through all doubt and questions. I held the bolt in my hands and immediately thought of the cross. The cross. The answer to everything was the cross. My hands shook as I held it in my hand. How could I possibly look at the cross and still question my Fathers devotion to me? I started speaking above the worship music that played and I shared with God what my heart was feeling and His words to me were clearer than ever before. I’m getting goosebumps again as I write this because believe me or not, but God literally parted the clouds and as the sun broke through and warmed my skin, I heard Him whisper to me through the gentle mist that if I ever felt lost, alone, unwanted or unloved.. all I needed to do was look to the cross because there is no greater affirmation. As perfect as God’s timing is, the song that played next was ‘love came down’. When my heart is overwhelmed and I cannot hear your voice.. hold onto what is true.. the life I have because of your Son.. love came down.. I remind myself I am yours. I am God’s and that is something I’ll continually have to purposely remind myself of, to consciously choose to believe and hold onto; even when it’s the last thing I feel worthy of or can fathom. 

My stay at the farm was brief but God made Himself known to me, and He didn’t stop once I left the farm. You see, that’s one of the beautiful things in learning about God: He isn’t tied to a place. As much as God made Himself known to me at the farm, He isn’t only at the farm. In that same way, as much as He makes Himself known to me at the riverside, He isn’t only at the river. This has been one of the hardest truths I have come to learn but it makes me fall all the more in love with my Father. Driving home from the farm I listened to another podcast, hoping it would distract me from the war that still raged within; the fight against choosing the wholehearted way.  H and I caught up the day I got home and she gave me two Bible verses from Romans. The first was Romans 8:18, Our present suffering is incomparable to the joy that is coming. The second was Romans 8:31, If God is for us then who can be against? I’ve spent a week or so dwelling on those verses but I find that I’m struggling to fathom what either of them mean.. How can I trust that there is joy to come when everything right now has felt so heavy? How can I trust that God is for me amidst the suffering? I know the answers to both those questions, God has revealed them to me many times in the past and I’ve written about these things on previous posts; it’s just hard to hold on sometimes. 

It was 4.21am. A confined space, locked doors, darkness, heart racing, begging to stop, two men over my trembling body: I woke screaming. A blood curdling scream at the top of my lungs into total darkness: brutal brokenness. The nightmares hadn’t been that bad in a while and my first thought when I woke was how desperately I needed God. My second thought was how I wished I listened to E’s ‘new age bs’ and set up some sort of bed side safety box; all I really wanted was the old rusted bolt I found on the farm because that was the most tangible reminder of God’s love for me. My heart pounded for a while as I tried to catch my breath, I needed God. He says I am His daughter: beloved. But where is He when I need Him most? Where was my Heavenly Father? I felt unsafe and alone. What felt most painful was the fact that my very first thoughts were of Him.. In my utmost distress it wasn’t any one else that I thought of first, or even second.. Before I thought to reach out for prayer it was my Father that I thought of, it was the cross and His love. Laying in that bed alone, all I wanted was to be wrapped up in that unconditional, safe and profound love— my Love, my Father. Oh how I longed to sit in His presence. “Where is God, where is He, I know I ask you that but I mean it, where is He?” My heart physically pulls downward each time I remember that line. I didn’t know it as I said it for the first time, but it has since become a line that haunts me and comes from the deepest parts of my spirit. I can still hear the sound of my own voice, breaking as I was sobbing; I was with T, in the midst of when things were really bad last year, that was a line I put forth to her. I didn’t think much of it, I just blurted it out and it came from the deep of my deep: it was what pre-consciously ate away at me and it was my hearts most nagging question. It’s a year later and I’m still asking that same question.. How do I dare? As I stared out the window into the blackness of night, my arms wrapped around my chest and suddenly all the arguing between Freud and other cognitive theorists in regards to the processing of trauma meant nothing to me. As my nails dug into my skin I hoped for a physical pain that outweighed the emotional, I was desperate to not retreat into my safely trapped; I knew that if I picked up a blade, I wouldn’t be able to stop. My body at that point was physically nauseous. Time had passed since my initial thoughts of my Father and my decision to reach out to my nearest for prayer. As my mind ever so cruelly replayed snippets of my explicit dream, I cried out to Him. In the magnitude of my fear and my shame, I found myself whispering into the dead of night I asked Him that if He could hear me, that if He was there, then would He please hold my heart. As I ever so gently whispered ‘please hold my heart’, over and over, it was as if a pin dropped the third time I said it. The racing beats subsided and I felt a hollowness around the outside atmosphere of my heart; it’s impossible to describe but I knew that it was my Father’s hands, He was holding my heart in its brokenness— in my brokenness He held me.

I sat wrapped in a blanket in front of the fire at the home I’m in at the moment. For a while I sat watching as the orange flames swallowed the wooden logs, turning them white as the coals glowed orange. I recall watching one of the flames as it danced with the wood, it seemed almost as if it were too afraid to fully embrace the wood. The flame would creep nearer, then it would withdraw. It repeated this dance for a while until almost all at once the flame wholly embraced the wooden log. I thought of myself and how closely I have resembled that flame. I remember T once describing me, painting the picture of me as a wounded animal in the corner, no where to go but too afraid to accept the helping hand outstretched; the way the flame was too afraid to wholly embrace the wooden log. In both scenarios I am afraid, and in both scenarios God’s love is what I’m most fearful of. If God loves me and if I accept that love, then that means I need to be vulnerable and I don’t know if I can do that. There’s a song called ‘I am loved’ by Maverick City Worship. Aside from being one of the most beautiful worship songs, there is a line in the song that read: ‘there is nothing sweeter than to be in your arms, near to your heart where I belong’. What do I need to do to be near to God’s heart? To be welcomed to sit in His presence? To be safely held? It’s taken time, but I looking back over the months, I do think I learned to accept the outstretched hand and I think I’m learning how to wholly embracing God’s love for me— however the decision to do so will be a daily one and one I will have to make consciously until it becomes habitual. I wondered though, how is it that I am able to accept the title of being my Fathers Daughter, if I am unwilling to step into His calling? There is only one way to pursue the Father: that is wholeheartedly. Our heart were created to crave God. I recently spent 5 hours at TC’s parents’ home, they’ve become like grandparents to me and we often spend time going to town or sitting down for tea.. her mom and I are actually spending Thursday together in town. Anyway, on this particular afternoon we spent hours talking about God and marvelling at His goodness, His provision and His creation. As humans we are created for connection and the connection we have to our Father is the one that matters most.

The concept of our connection to, and relationship with, God was again spoken of in Church a few days ago. I didn’t hear a lot of what was said but I heard that to be hungry for God is to pursue Him and I know that I’ve been trying to pursue Him. That same Sunday I had gotten dressed in my cute little suit and spoke to Jesus the whole drive to church. The night before hadn’t been easy but I was looking forward to seeing T again and spending time with God, in fellowship with those around me. T, her husband and I settled into our seats, with our coffees and laughter; it felt like home, family. I knew within me that I was safe and secure in God, but what I didn’t know was that nothing could ever quite prepare me for a wave of ptsd. Worship had barely begun and my hands were shaking, I was trying so desperately to keep them still and to take a deep breath but my breathing was fast and shallow. I stood for as long as I could before the flashbacks threw me down into my chair. I scribbled 3 words onto a page before showing T and leaving the auditorium. Scrambling into the bathroom stall, I locked the door and sat on the closed lid. Breathe girl, breathe. My mind flashed the most cruelest memories on repeat and I fought back the tears. Voices came in so I quickly hurried to fix my hair and as I looked up, I saw T standing in the door way— around her, all I saw was God: safe. I was far from okay but I knew I wasn’t alone, we stood outside and spent time breathing before going back into the service. I rolled my eyes at myself when I flooded the atmosphere with olive green and focused on my breathing. As T and I spoke outside, all I wanted was my Father. I wanted Him to hold me, to wrap His arms around me and to cup my face in the palms of His hands. I wished then that I’d had that rusted old nail, a tangible reminder of God’s love for me; though even in that, I knew God’s love wasn’t attached to the old nail, it was there— always there. I looked up at T in a moment of silence and there stood my tangible reminder of God’s love. He was there, in and around us both. The rest of the service was hard and honestly, if I didn’t need to touch base with H afterwards, then I’d have likely gone home sooner. I tried to tune into the word but my mind kept pulling me back to the darkest corners. I closed my eyes and spoke to my Father, I knew He was there. When I opened my eyes, I stopped digging my nail into my skin and I saw the ring on my finger; it was my promise to pursue God above all else. I let down my walls and as I felt His spirit linger, I knew that I was choosing the wholehearted way, I was pursuing Him.

The PTSD flare ups have only been growing in intensity and frequency. Since Sunday alone I’ve been battling more deeply. Monday saw me pathetically escaping to the riverside with the only symbol of safety I’ve carried since birth: a soft toy from home in South Africa. Pushing aside all feelings of being a pathetic excuse for a 21yo, I tightened my grip and clenched my jaw. As skin tears I can breathe, a fleeting moment of relief from the constant gasping for air; until the tightness in my chest returns with a vengeance, squeezing the life out of me. I feel buried and overwhelmed, drowning beneath the brutal waves; darkness, screeching, handprints, silhouettes, deep pressure, repetition, raspy voices, heavy breathing, silent tears, it goes on. My mind becomes a broken record that plays my darkest fears on repeat, fragments of my past I’ve tried so desperately to forget. If suppression were a sport, I’d be winning first prize for over a decade now. Hear me now, when I tell you that there are pieces of my past that remain unspoken, there are boxes that I haven’t dared to touch and confessions I haven’t dared to share; not even with T. My family, both past and present, there is so much more than what meets the eye. Strangers, old and young, black and white. No perpetrator ever cares, they don’t think about whether they themselves are clean, whether they use protection, whether they are hurting the body that lays beneath their power. But why would they care? They only care about having their needs met, regardless of who they torture in between. God still is there, I have to believe that He is still there. I have to believe that He still loves me and through the trauma, He is carrying me.. Oh how I hope He is carrying me.

The irony in my struggle with vulnerability is that I’m becoming braver in making connections with the world around me, but I’ve been at a stand still with God. My safety and security in God has allowed me to be bold with others, but why not with my Father? Since meeting H, the two of us have had various intimate prayer sessions. Through her I have connected with 6 other women and in small ways I’ve been able to peel back layers of myself to form new relationships. I’ve gone to a number of dinner parties at H’s home and I’ve taken part in sharing during Bible study. These are things I never thought I would do again.

CA and I caught up for another coffee and she connected me to KA. I was invited to KA’s home for dinner which was an invitation I boldly accepted. She cooked the most divine meal and the atmosphere was safe; God was with me. After a few uncomfortable questions were asked, I decided not to lie and I found myself sharing with both KA and her husband about my journey with AN and my recovery. Later in the evening KA and I were sitting alone in her lounge chatting about art when TC came up in conversation, the two of them had known each other since Katanning many years ago and since moving to Albany she had switched GP’s to seeing T (what were the chances in this small town). Three hours passed before I went home and I didn’t once overthink the fact that I’d just shared one of the largest secrets I’ve held close for years.

I could share many more examples of ways in which I’ve stepped out vulnerably but my question stands to ask why it is I struggle to be vulnerable with the One who already knows all of me?

At the beginning of the post I told you that by the time I reached the riverside again, everything would have changed and it had. I experienced God in various ways and at last I found myself at the riverside again. My final and most recent visit to the riverside came and as the clouds rolled in I parked my car in its usual spot. I sat and began counting the ripples of the river as they lapped against the shore, I thought of how perfectly they displayed God’s endless love. I moved closer to the shore to see that my plant had died and though I knew at some point it would, I didn’t expect it to die so soon. The lifespan of my plant barely made a week shy of 3 months and there were times where I thought it would die for sure but then it picked up again and was okay. My journey with God’s been a bit like that lately; fleeting. I’ve spent so much time searching for God, wondering why it was He who was fleeting but I was wrong. God hasn’t been coming and going as He pleases, He hasn’t hidden from me: it’s been me. As I looked at what remained of my plant, I realised I’d been the one coming and going as I pleased, hiding from God and rejecting His presence out of shame and fear. I’m learning that God isn’t a fleeting God; He is lasting. God doesn’t appear and then vanish, He doesn’t show up in one battle only to run away in the next. God’s love and desire for relationship with us isn’t only a momentary thing, it’s eternal. In His word [1 John 2:25] God said “and this is what He promised us— eternal life”. I looked to my wrist [Isaiah 41:13], “For I am the Lord Your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you: ‘Do not fear, I will help you’”. I can lay forth many other verses throughout the bible but in the end what matters most is that God didn’t say that He is only here for a while or until things get tough; He is here for the long haul. So why is it that I’m constantly searching for God in the depth of my suffering? Does His word not promise that He is right there? Why is it that when I see the cross, I’m blinded by the suffering and brutality of it all; where as when God sees the cross, He sees the resurrection, He sees victory and love? My mind is so wired to see the brutality before the beauty. And as I sat by the riverside I closed my eyes because my eyes no longer wanted to see unless they could see though God’s eyes, I didn’t want to live a fleeting life searching for the One who is always right there.

I rose and walked toward where the trees beckon out over the river. As I walked along the largest called tree, I sat once again with my feet dangling above the river, metres from the shore. It is here where I now sit, drawing this post to an end. With my eyes closed I encountered my precious moment with my Father. In a state of wholehearted vulnerability, I allowed myself to be raw with God, opening my heart to Him once again. Words from the prayer T prayed over me last year, on the day I gave my heart back to God 300 days ago, circled through my mind; God has never been anywhere else than there for me, He is always there, I may not always understand but I know that God loves me and cares deeply for me, He is holding my hand on this journey. In prayer I spoke to God and gave Him all of me: every battered and bruised piece of me, each box and dark corner, each scar and failure. Do you know what He whispered in the wind? I felt Him cup my face between the palms of His hands as He welcomed me home: His beautiful, precious and loved daughter.

My God has created me in His image, since the 13th of June He has helped me see myself the way He sees me and I have no doubt He will continue to do so. This doesn’t however, mean that I won’t struggle to see my worth in Him. Since my week alone with God and my daily choices to recover all in, I have gained a substantial amount of weight. I sometimes look in the mirror and I can’t help but cry because I struggle to understand how anyone, let alone my Father, can look at me and think I am beautiful. I’m used to my family picking my body apart cruelly and not telling me that I am loved or beautiful, but I’ve noticed over the last few months that as I’ve appeared to be stronger in my recovery, others have also stopped saying anything. When I was at my lowest weight and I thought nothing of myself, it was then that people were often telling me that I was loved or that I looked beautiful. Ironically, now that I’ve gained weight and I appear to be in a better place, that’s all changed. And it’s not that I expect or want people to tell me that they love me or tell me that I look beautiful, it’s more the absence of it that I’ve noticed and it’s come from those I least expected. I’ve gotten good at putting on a mask again and those who could once see through, no longer can because they too seem to have a preconceived idea of where I am at in my journey. As my self doubt has grown, as my self worth has diminished, I have found myself hourly needing to go back to the concept of being safe and secure in God. Whether I feel it or not, I know that He loves me. I know that I might not always understand how or why, but that doesn’t change God’s love for me. I have to believe that my Father still smiles and calls me His own, He says I am still beautiful and I am still His daughter. He may not be tied to the river or any other place, but He meets me there and He will always meet me wherever I am. The deep of my heart yearns for Him and I now know that I am forever welcome to simply sit in His presence, to just be with Him in the most raw and tangible form.

I’ve spent 300 days fleetingly trying to pursue God in my suffering and in my recovery, but I realise now that the only way to pursue God is to choose the wholehearted way. I don’t know what that looks like and I’d say that I’m going to spend time figuring it out, but I don’t think it’s something I need to figure out. I can’t figure out how to pursue God wholeheartedly, I just need to do it, it’s like falling in love with Him over and over again. It’s like the way I need to just let Him love me. Choosing the wholehearted way means choosing God, it means choosing to suffer well, it means allowing myself to wash up at the foot of the cross— it’s a choice I need to vulnerably step into each moment of each day. I haven’t had social media for a few weeks now because I chose to remove any distraction throughout my degree and I’m now additionally choosing to step back from my blogging for a while as well. As much as I blog to reflect God’s goodness and record testimonies of His faithfulness to me, I’m choosing to do that with pen and paper; a more intimate and intentional way of spending time with Him. I’ve spent 300 days half heartedly pursuing God, and I’ll now spend the next 300 days and all the days to follow, learning to pursue Him wholeheartedly.

As I prayed my most vulnerable prayer whilst sitting over the river, I knew in my heart that the road ahead wouldn’t be easy. I again had to let down the walls around my heart, I needed to allow God to take my bricks. This was only the beginning and I knew I would fall again, I will fall again, but this time I know I will be held and embraced. I will still battle trauma and feelings of shame, but I know I will still be loved as I am. There’s nothing straight forward or simple about this way of living with God, but I know it is the wholehearted way in which He beckons us all to live.

I have been met by the One who calls me His own and I have been embraced by the most profound and eternal love, here I will forever stay safely held in the presence of my Father. This love is not one I need to earn or prove that I deserve, it is mine because I am fearfully and wonderfully made – beautifully broken. My Jesus is the only One I want, the only One my heart yearns for each hour of each day. I am still falling in love with God, through every up and every down. This is me vulnerably surrendering and choosing to walk in the wholehearted way.

– c x (11.08.2021)

Brave Brokenness — A love story like no other .

Upon writing this post I really sat and pondered how I would lay my heart out on paper. I found myself conflicted when it came to whether or not I would sugar coat aspects or leave them out entirely. I became trapped in a cycle of questioning; Would what I wrote have a negative effect on my relationships? Would I lose trust between myself and loved ones? Would I cross a boundary or would my post be too reminiscent of my past blogs in the depth of my deepest battles? As I asked these questions, I felt God press on my heart and in turn question my motives behind why I write. I don’t know if you recall a few posts ago but I made it very clear that I don’t write for any one person. My writing is an outpouring of my heart, it’s an honest reflection of where I am along my journey with God and it’s where the two of us write about the ways in which He meets me. In saying this, I am so very aware that I have loved ones with whom I share some of these posts with. I know that what I write often won’t impact any of those globally who interact with my blog, but I also know that it may impact those whom are close to my heart. I suppose that in all, it comes down to being brave, doesn’t it? The easiest option here would be to scrap this whole post and forget about wanting to share it in the beginning and believe me, it’s been tempting. However, if I were to do that I would be pushing aside testimonies of God’s goodness, I would be silencing His praises and shying away from the celebration that comes with each breakthrough. As a result I have decided to post this blog, I have written each line and paragraph with God. This is an outpouring of my heart that rawly shows the depths of my lows and the heights of my highs in the recent weeks that I have walked with my Jesus. No full understanding of God’s goodness can possibly come from a glossed over testimony, life isn’t picture perfect and we all know that my journey is not linear, I’m not immune to suffering and I truely am only human. But what makes all the difference in the world, is that as reminiscent as aspects of my last few weeks may be toward my old self, as brutally broken as I have found myself, I have been safely held and I am still pursuing God in my recovery. Oh how He loves me so..

I remember growing up believing that if I was able to say and do all the right things, then I was brave. If I could smile and not cry, then I was brave. If I could suppress my emotions, then I was brave. If I could pretend as if the traumas never took place, then I too was brave. If I could neglect myself and put everyone else first, then again I was brave. It wasn’t until the 3rd of July that God began to slowly unravel my set beliefs around bravery. I began my search for answers around brave brokenness. I’ve done a lot of searching in the recent two or so months, as my last post outlined I searched for God everywhere I could think of. I’ve even searched for His peace in places unknown to me.  

It was just past 2am and the moonlight gently glistened over the rivers surface. You may know it or not, but there’s something quite precious about the riverside in the blackness of night as it turns to dawn. Though that preciousness too carried a sense of tragedy as I laid riverside in the pouring rain, covered by the dark blanket of night with a hand filled with little white pills: I didn’t feel very brave. Unsure of why I was there, I cried; In the end, I didn’t take the pills. To defeat the darkness out there, you must first defeat the darkness within you – Aslan. I’ve been reading Narnia lately, courtesy of T and conversations we’ve had. Oh how I sobbed when Aslan first dies, the purity of his sacrifice; the purity of how Jesus sacrificed Himself for us. Nevertheless there was a moment where Aslan made the statement above and in the darkness of night by the riverside, his words played on my mind. The battle I find myself amidst is darker than the blackness of night, but my Jesus within me has already overcome the darkness. His love for me is one like no other. Ann Voskamp wrote about reaching out your hand amidst the darkness to find the light, in that same way when I am amidst my darkest battles I am able to reach out my right hand to Jesus. There are days where I don’t want to keep breathing but even those days by body doesn’t forget and it breathes anyway.

I laid there for a while, questioning and waiting. I left, still unsure as to what brave brokenness was or what it looked like. It was a cold period of time between laying in the rain before finding myself laying outstretched in the bath. My skin was burnt red from the cold and as I lowered myself into the boiling water, I felt ill as the fire met ice. I submerged myself under until nothing but the surface of my face stuck out above the water. My ears rung with the hollow sound of my echoed heart beat and the water lapped at my lips and nose. My head sunk lower until I was completely below the surface; staying as such, counting and waiting, until my body choked and surged forward with a gasp. They say that the moment before you breathe in water and drown is one of complete silence, your breath that was held begins to diminish and your need for oxygen deepens until your brain begins to forget that it’s underwater and you instinctually breathe the water and begin to drown. As I child I was often held underwater by men like my father, I was told to toughen up and be brave. But in the end I only grew up more afraid of the water and to this day I still am. However as I laid in that bath I wondered if God would speak to me in that moment of silence before drowning: complete silence, utter peace. You hear the phrase ‘peace that surpasses understanding’ (Philippians 4:6), thrown around frequently and given little weight. I paused at one stage to truely think about that concept, imagine a peace that truely surpasses all understanding. God has been revealing to me that I don’t need to understand or be brave in order to feel His peace, I don’t need to have all the answers. God perfect peace allows me to be brave in my brokenness

It takes an abundance of bravery to, in your brokenness, be able to stare hell in the face and say “No! I am fearfully and wonderfully made and my God is greater than any suffering I will face”. It takes an abundance of bravery to find the beauty in your brokenness, to allow your eyes to be opened so that you may see yourself the way our Father sees us. It takes an abundance of bravery to sit in your car, and whilst sobbing because the abuse and control at home is worsening by the day, be able to look into the rearview mirror and tell yourself that you are still loved and worthy. There have been times amidst my deep brokenness where I have in bravery spoken Gods truths over myself aloud, but there too have been times where amidst that same brokenness I have crumbled and succumb to my safely trapped. The latter grows stronger.

I haven’t been going to church lately. In all honesty I’ve been too ashamed and afraid to enter into the building. I haven’t been back since the encounter night we held a few weeks ago. It was a special night between my God and myself, I found myself for the first time falling to my knees with my palms open wide. A brave surrender. My God met me there in my brokenness, He held my right hand. I shared that night and as I breathed into the microphone, it wasn’t me whom spoke. Like the whispers in the gentle wind by the riverside, so my God spoke through me. I left church that night, a fire inside of me burning for my Jesus. That was before any relapses that took place, am I any less brave in my brokenness now than I was then? Instead of going to church I have been spending more time alone with God by the riverside. Truth be told, I feel almost as if the majority of my last few weeks have been spent solely by the riverside. I resigned from my workplace and since then have spent almost every day alone with Him, on the banks of the river.

I remember a particular day, when the concept of brave brokenness was still newly impressed upon my heart, I ventured out to the riverside yet again. I had just washed my car, which mind you was well overdue, and as I drove absentmindedly along the dirt road by the river, red mud splashed across its white surface. As I hit a hole in the road I came to and realised what had happened but before I could let out a sigh, I likened myself to my car. You see, I was once white myself, pure and untainted. But much like my car, it didn’t take long before the trauma and suffering of life splashed across my very own self. What was once clean, now no longer pure. My heart sank a little deeper as I drove down the winding dirt road. Bump after bump, tear after tear. I had large conversations with my Jesus that particular afternoon and as I walked out to sit upon a tree that fell over the river, I called out to Him. I sat for a while with my feet dangling over the water as I watched the ripples pass beneath me. The tree itself was large, and I sat metres out from the banks. With all my heart I pleaded for my Jesus to show me how to be brave in my brokenness. I couldn’t understand why God had given me this burden to carry, this concept to figure out amidst everything else. I had learned over previous months how to suffer well, but even some days I can’t achieve that and as the weeks pass it becomes all the more difficult to suffer well. Did suffering well reflect bravery in my brokenness? Can one bear witness to the other?

In the silence that followed, I lifted myself up and wandered toward my plant that was still buried in the banks of the river. My plant has survived longer than I anticipated but like me, it’s gone through deep rooted seasons of change and turmoil. The recent winds and rains have been unkind to my plant and I fear it’s days are numbered. Upon arrival I fell, tears like none foreseen streaming down my face and I sobbed. Unsure of what triggered these tears, each of them cried the same pleading question; How could I be brave in my brokenness if brave was the furtherest from what I felt like? You know that saying about how God will never give us what we can’t handle and how He chooses His bravest children to face certain trials? Yeah, I think somewhere wires got crossed because I don’t think I can handle this suffering for much longer and I don’t feel very brave. I don’t entirely agree with both those statements though.. I think that God allows suffering to take place, whether we can handle it or not, because as the concept of suffering well states: when we can’t handle our suffering, it creates a dependancy upon God, our weaknesses are brought forward like a container in which God’s power and glory can be held. Does this mean that I don’t need to be brave to face these trials either? Heck, I won’t sit here and tell you that it’s worse now than it’s ever been because the reality is that we’ve still made so much progress and I know that it’s been worse before. But that doesn’t take away from how hard things have been in the recent month or two. The highs are lowering and the lows are deepening. The sadness is intensifying and to be frank, it’s quite scary. I feel more weak each day and it’s becoming more habitual to be safely trapped than it is to be safely held. I shared these feelings with my God by the riverside and the rain soon came. The cursive ink spread, running across the pages before me. I was unsure as to whether the droplets that fell were tears or rain but I allowed for both to flow freely. I closed my eyes and felt the gentle breeze brush across my cheeks, my tears ran cold in the wind and I knew in my heart that it was my God caressing my cheeks, cupping my face with the palms of His hands and reminding me that I am not ever alone. A light mist rolled over the rivers surface, He had met me there. In my sheer brokenness, my Father showed me a love like no other and in Him I found a small hope for bravery.

Ann Voskamp once wrote that feelings are meant to be fully felt, then fully surrendered. I forget this more often than not. I find myself wondering if my feelings are allowed to be felt? Are they valid? Do they make me an inherently bad person? They are, they are, they do not. As I laid on the bathroom floor, slumped against the wall with my head resting on the toilet seat, I surrendered those feelings. 

Leading to that moment of surrender, I had had the most beautiful day. Nothing during the day had indicated toward what took place that night, in fact I had felt in the highest of spirits all day. I had spent the morning alone with my precious little man, J, we celebrated his 4th birthday with a date at McDonalds where we shared an ice cream and ‘chippies’. Afterwards we spent time together before returning home. I hosted a baby shower for a friend of mine that afternoon which went smoothly as well. The day was filled with really huge triumphs against Gollum and I was actually able to celebrate them. No regret sank in around my intake but as the night came, the tricky emotions took root. I arrived home 14 hours after leaving that morning and who could have foreseen that the night would take such a drastic turn. I spent what felt like hours crying, sobbing, until I had found myself desperate for a numbness. In utter desperation I shamefully did something I hadn’t done in years; I drank. Vodka, straight from the bottle. The numbness set in and with it a bitterness inside of me toward life itself. I was soon throwing up and between that, I was yelling. At the top of my lungs I was yelling to God, spouting questions and accusations — all my sorrows poured out to Him. I yelled and I yelled until the only petition my leaving my lips, was my hearts deepest desire; just let me feel you. 

I sobbed as I pleaded for God to let me feel Him, just so that I could undoubtedly know He was there. I told T once that knowing God was there and feeling Him there were two vastly different things. I carelessly yelled and told God about my traumas, I asked Him where He was and why I couldn’t feel Him then either. I reached out my hand and showed Him my wrist, I recited the verse and I yelled as I told God that He said He takes hold of my right hand, but where was His hand? Surely it wasn’t in my own? Like a child I pointed to my hand as if God Himself stood before me watching, I showed God where I wanted to feel Him, I told Him that He didn’t have to hold my whole hand if He didn’t want to, He could just poke it, just one little touch, just one tiny touch: that was all I asked for, it would have been enough to feel that He was there with me on that cold tiled floor. Nothing. 

I went to bed that night, drinking a fortisip feeling incredibly unwell. I laid in bed filled with regret, self hatred and this burning nagging to hurt myself. I thought of Jude, he wrote too that nothing in his day has indicated he may need to hurt himself but as he entered into solitude he found himself almost ravenous for it. I traced my scars and the only thing I could wonder was how, how, would or could anyone ever love me? If I couldn’t even feel God, if He didn’t even want to hold my hand, let alone touch it, then how could love come in? I didn’t hurt myself that night but the battle to fight off those urges was quickly growing more and more impossible. As the numbness wore off, the flooding of emotions intensified and I laid in bed speaking now, a mere matter of whispering to my Jesus. Much time passed but still I tossed and turned, unable to attain peace or find rest. In the darkness I reached to switch on my lamp and I opened up the Ann Voskamp book I am still reading. As I read, my Father answered my plead. He reminded me that He dwells in me, He moves into my empty places, my rejected places, my abandoned places and my places filled with grief. My Father fills me with chosenness and wholeness. If my God dwells within me then why could I not feel Him? Again, how could I display a brave brokenness?

I woke the next morning, unreasonably before dawn and I sat up in bed. Had it not been for the mess left over from the night before, I never would have known what had taken place. I felt physically fine but emotionally exhausted. I packed myself a back pack filled with supplies and I set out to spend the day hiking with God. I was ashamed to call on Him so I thought that perhaps I could go to the riverside and ‘bump’ into Him there. I spent that Sunday trekking 16km along the riverside. In the silence of nature, I waited on God and the deep of my heart asked Him many questions. It had at this point been nearly two weeks since He first gave me the concept of brave brokenness. But what my heart beckoned to know, what was brave brokenness? God has shown me that there is beauty in my brokenness, but where is there bravery? How can I break bravely? How can my brokenness be brave? What does it mean to be brave? As I walked I often fell, whether it be due to slippery mud or light headedness. Laying in the wet mud I wondered if standing back up would make me brave or if it would only lead to more pain. The track was long but oh so beautiful, I was out there alone, did that perhaps make me brave? I was paranoid and I knew that wasn’t brave, each stranger that passed looked threatening to me and my mind only replayed traumas on repeat. I looked at my surroundings with each step and each thing I saw looked more and more like a weapon or the potential to cause deep pain. I didn’t feel very brave but I continued to walk regardless of how I felt. My heart ached because the kilometres I hiked didn’t bring me any closer to God, the magic of the riverside was tainted by Gollum and the harder I searched for my Father, the harder I seemed to fall. Where was my Jesus and how has He shown me how to be brave in my brokenness? I thought of the night before His crucifixion. My mind took me back to a period of time during the longer of my hospital admissions, where I received a letter. The letter itself was unsigned and without any indication of whom its sender may have been, to this day I have my suspicions but I still don’t know. The letter was typed and signed at the end with: ‘I love you, My precious wildflower, Jesus xx’. Within the letter it spoke about the battles of life not being my own, but rather belonging to Jesus. It spoke about how the night before the crucifixion Jesus was also afraid, He was in fact so afraid that He sweat blood and pleaded with His Father for any other outcome (Luke 22:44). But even in that deepest of suffering, Jesus knew that God had greater plans for Him. As I continued walking I realised that Jesus showed us how to be brave in our brokenness: Surrender, Trust and Faith. When we are breaking, true bravery is seen when we surrender unto God, when we trust that He will keep His promise for things to work together for the good of those whom love Him, we just need to have faith (Romans 8:28, Hebrews 1:11). Oh if only those three things were as easily done as they are said. Surrender and the vulnerability that comes with it is still something my heart battles with from time to time, and as with trust and faith, all have been put to the test recently more so than previously. 

Hours soon passed and as I reached the end of my hike I sat riverside, by then covered mostly in a crusty thick layer of mud. I watched on as the waters edge lapped against the bank, taking with it a red-ish brown that flowed into the clear of the river. The rivers surface, now marbled, as the two became one. I looked left and saw my body, my lifeless self laying beside the river, I watched as the blood my heart once pumped through my body, now too became one with the river. I blinked and what I had seen was gone, as if never there to begin with. I looked down to my right hand, it was safely held (Isaiah 41:13). Sitting by the rivers edge it became more and more abundantly clear to me that my God had in fact been walking with me all morning, His love for me outweighed my guilt and shame, His love for me always outweighs all else.

Monday came and I spent my morning, again so beautifully with my dear girl, A. It was her turn for a date and we spent hours present with each other. During out time together there were no hindering emotions, there was nothing but pure joy. Her first request was to spend time at the indoor ninja warriors place and the entire morning was centred around bravery. I watched her as she strived to conquer whatever laid before her, I watched her joy when succeeding and I watched her perseverance when she battled. Was this a depiction of what it looks like to be brave? The two of us later recreated a picnic that we’d had a few years ago at Eyres park, with McDonalds yet again, we set out to sit on a picnic rug by the lakeside. Many brave adventures followed and all throughout Gollum was silent. My emotions had remained at bay and there was yet again no indication that the crash from the high would be as deeply devastating as it was late that afternoon. After lunch Little A and I returned home where R and I shared a cup of tea. As I sat at the table with R, everything inside of me told me to leave, yet I stayed. Sitting with R I tried my best to stop myself from completely falling apart, and as we spoke I realised that no amount of suffering and deep pain will ever undo what God has done. No amount of mistakes or hurting will take away from the magnitude of change God has done and continues to do within me. The truth is, God’s goodness can be celebrated even in light of the brutal battles because those battles will continue to come, but God’s goodness will too. Neither are over, they are able to coexist and it doesn’t make me a bad person, it doesn’t make me a liar or a fake. More importantly, it doesn’t take away from either my suffering or my rejoicing because both are very real and allowed to be fully felt and fully surrendered. I wasn’t a coward for the suffering I’d been finding myself amidst lately, and I could still be brave. I left R’s home later that day, I cried so hard on the drive home that between my tears and the heavy rain; I could hardly see what laid before me. In what felt like seconds, I was pulled over on the side of the highway in the rain, a blown tire, a dented and written off rim, and a number of flashing lights. I cried behind the steering wheel for a while, I felt like giving up and just running away into the nothingness. An hour or so passed before I was home again and upon arriving home I instinctually ran straight for my bedroom. The distress had been pent up and continued to rise viciously inside of me. Rummaging through my belongings, I searched for those old silver blades. A little rusted now, I found them hidden beneath a canister and with trembling hands, I reached for them and sobbed heavily. Crawling to the bathroom, I sat on the cold surface and studied the patterns on my thighs. Those forever patterns had been imprinted over time, each told a story of it’s own. My fingers traced the lines, the bumps, the scars that remained of what once was. It had been months since red lines were last drawn, I was proud of my progress until I wasn’t and in a moment of dissociation and weakness: I relapsed. I can’t recall much of what happened in the bathroom that afternoon but I remember the breath. I breathed a sigh so passionate, so deep and so filled with relief as the pain was made physical, counteracting the internal. As the surface of the blade cut the tenderness of flesh, without hesitation or remorse, the deep of my heart cried out to my Jesus with the loudest of cries. How can I be brave Dear Lord, you have placed two words on my heart over these past few weeks: ‘brave brokenness’, but do You not see that I am anything but brave? I sat for a while as I watched the white flesh turn red as it swelled with blood, I then continued to watch as the red drops raced one another downward before dripping onto the tiles. Zoning in and out I remained there as I worked to gather strength in me to rise. In time I stood and cleaned up, I wiped my face and fixed my hair before practicing a smile in the mirror. Then I left to run errands in town and secure a new job, as if nothing had happened.  

The lines on my thighs made themselves known to me throughout the remainder of that day and during the days to come, whether it be the smell of blood as I drove or the pulling of skin each time the soles of my feet hit the ground. I went to the riverside that evening and the hairs on my arms stood tall, as if they were to form canyons around which the rains droplets would pass. My eyes closed to the world around me as I invited my God to sit with me on the banks of the river. Shame arose but as I opened my eyes I saw a rainbow before me, I knew then that my invitation was accepted and my God was indeed shamelessly with me. I studied the way in which the rain fell, the droplets falling without hesitation. Some droplets would continuously fall upon others, not allowing the previous to pass first. I suppose lifes suffering can be a bit like that; at times suffering makes itself known before we are able to recover from previous suffering. Does suffering well make you brave? Or is it considered brave when we endeavour to suffer well, whether we succeed or not?

It hurt too much to walk on Monday but come last Tuesday I ventured out yet again to walk in a hope to meet God. I found myself walking down Bon Accord and taking in each native flower I saw.. various banksias, grevilleas and pincushion hakeas. As I walked I thought of the banksia coccinea, otherwise known as a scarlet banksia, that lays in my car and I thought of the various species of proteas that are currently flowering in my garden at home. How is it that the One who created each of these delicate flowers, is the same One who holds me in my brokenness? I walked for an hour or so before the sun began to set, the tops of the trees now barely glowing from the last glimmer of light. As dusk set in, my careless dancing turned to running and that running turned to wheezing and then I fell. Laying in the middle of the road, the world silenced by noise cancelling headphones drowning out my emotions with sad songs. I wondered then how it was that that One could love me? That night I laid in bed, watching the shadows of the trees dance in the moonlight as my mind replayed every painstaking moment of my traumas, my body cowered away in the darkness and the lines on my thighs still freshly gaped from what was by then long gone. Was I still loved? 

I think now of the poppies swaying outside my bedroom window – I had just plucked 7 new buds this morning. I smile because as cruel as that act may be, it is also kind and brings forth growth. Therapy on Friday felt cruel, in fact the last few sessions this month have felt more cruel than ever before; but they have also worked toward bringing forth growth. I had a long two hour coffee date with my old therapist, CA, and it was one of the nicest coffee dates I’ve had in a while. We shared a common ground in most things, career wise but also personal interests and the conversation came all too easily. It felt to have been only half an hour when we said goodbye but time revealed it was indeed much longer.. I thought of T because one day that will be us and oh how my heart yearns for that day to arrive sooner. Whilst sharing a live of cake, CA and I spoke a lot about God and shared small testimonies of His goodness. Since February CA has gained much insight and has become quite privy into where I am at in my journey. The time we shared on Friday after my session with E, was different to time we’ve previously spent together. In all honesty, our time together was the gift from God that my heart didn’t know it needed. Following recent hardships, especially over the last week, my time with CA was time that God used to re-member and heal my broken pieces. As I shared with CA all that God has been doing, it was as if God were speaking through me and it were me sitting where CA sat. Every testimony shared about what God has done since the beginning of the year, each story and triumph, worked to re-member me and it was in that moment that I realised what Ann Voskamp had meant all along. In the deepest of pain, when we remember God’s faithfulness and praise His name, we in turn allow Him to re-member us.. whether we feel brave or not.

The breakthrough did come, my lightbulb moment. I was driving down Prideaux and thought of T, I didn’t know it at the time but everything that happened next was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. You see, I don’t use Spotify but T had once brought it up in conversation well over a year ago and every now and then I pop on to see what worship songs are there. As I drove I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to go onto Spotify, I thought it was weird because I already had worship music playing from my phone and it felt silly to switch platforms. Regardless I found myself clicking on shuffle on the first playlist that came up. The song that played? Battle belongs, by Phil Whickham. I drove and listened to the words, they resonated through each part of me but it wasn’t until the final chorus was sung that the penny dropped.. “God, the battle belongs to you”. That’s the answer to how I can be bravely broken.. I reached for a piece of paper and scribbled down what was on my heart — I can be brave in my brokenness because I know these battles belong to Jesus. My heart knows too that through Jesus, the battle is already won. I can be brave because I know that even though I am broken, I am also safely held by the One who fights my battles for me. Would you believe me if I told you that only a day later, TR shared that same song on Facebook? As if it were God Himself confirming His answer to my question on how I could be brave in my brokenness and how it would look.

I recall a time last July where T had come to visit me in hospital, the headspace I was in was one of self destruction and total despair – more familiar nowadays. At the time I was reading a book about a girl whom herself battled Anorexia, my intentions for reading this book however was ill and T had left me that morning with the book in hand. Upon returning it several months later, she had told me she marked a page upon which a poem was written by the girls mother; one she hoped I would read and appreciate when the time was right. A year has since passed and one night this week I found myself reorganising the draws in my room in preparation for my beginning studies, I stumbled across the book and opened to the page that T had marked. “There is a beautiful creature, living in a hole you have dug. So at night I set fruit and grains, and a little pot of wine and milk, beside your soft earthen mounds. And often I sing. But still, my dear, you do not come out. I have fallen in love with Someone who hides inside you. We should talk about this problem— Otherwise, I will never leave you alone”. 

My heart yearned as I read that poem; it yearned to be safely held in the arms of those whom waited outside my hole, oh how my heart broke for their own hearts. Though my battle is still very present and very real, it would be foolish of me to not pause and acknowledge how far we have come; not from a sense of accomplishment, but rather from a sorrow filled sense of realisation for the deep pain that has been caused to those dear to me. I can not begin to imagine how heart breaking it must have been for those who loved me, to have to stand by and watch as I slowly killed myself, and not being able to do anything about it. Recovery was a choice that I needed to make, no-one could make it for me; as was the choice to live. There was a stage where I was so consumed by Gollum, so lost and out of my depth. I don’t remember much detail about the last two years but there was one point where I remember sitting in front of T, she was telling me that she didn’t know who I was, she only saw Gollum, she wanted to speak to me but I wasn’t there. It saddens me to even think of that, imagine how it would feel to sit down with someone you love but not be able to reach them. T painted a picture of me once, long before either of us read the book quoted above. She told me that she saw me, a wounded animal in the corner of the room, too afraid to accept the tender love and hand extended out to me. 

I think now of how my Father must have felt, how His heart must have broken as He watched me each hour of each day; it is said that if our human hearts were to experience even the smallest fraction of the depth of heartbreak that God feels for ourselves, then that alone would be enough to physically tear our hearts in two. I feel sad as I consider how He and my loved ones must have felt, I feel sad but I don’t hate myself because I understand that I was unwell and it wasn’t pain that I intended to conflict. I however do not understand how I was still loved through everything. How is it that just in this last month R, T, TR, TC and my Father have all told me that they still love me? Why do they still love me? How could they? Oh when I stop and when I allow myself to be loved I pain inside because I know that I don’t deserve it, yet I receive that love nonetheless. The concept of God’s heart breaking for me as He loves me unconditionally is still a concept I am learning to grasp. He has sat outside the hole I have dug, alongside my loved ones, and they each have fallen in love with me. I feel so taken back to know that they never lost sight of me, they loved the girl who was so cruel consumed by Gollum, they saw her and held hope for her, they never left and gave up. Seeing God as my Heavenly Father and coming to know Him as such has been one of the largest challenges I have faced in my life. T phrased it quite perfectly when she once told me that it’s hard to imagine God as our Heavenly Father when we don’t have a loving earthly father to compare Him to. I have grown up with the elusiveness of love as my nearest companion, in a home where love was not shown unconditionally I grew up guarded and unsure of how to accept the love offered to me. I am learning, I really am but it’s hard because it goes against the deep rooted beliefs I have held within me. I have sought approval from those whose opinions of me in hindsight never really mattered, the only one with whom I should be concerned is in fact my Heavenly Father. For He is the One who has held my right hand as He so dearly promised me He would, when I left Him He never left me. My God has stood by me through everything, through each suicide attempt, each time I hurt myself or self destructed; through every tear and crushing, He was there. My God has pursued me and He has fought for me; it truely is a love story like no other

As I sit here now, concluding this post, I can in all honesty say that the last six weeks have been terribly painful. However whether things continue to grow increasingly more difficult, or whether they become easier: in my heart of hearts I know that I do not need to always be brave. In fact, bravery is often contrast to what I grew up believing it was. My Jesus has shown me that I am able to be brave even when brave is the furthest thing from how I feel. Brave brokenness looks like falling at the foot of the cross, arms open in surrender and allowing God to take control because each battle belongs to Him and the fight is already won. The very Writer of my story has written Himself into even the darkest of my chapters and He meets me there, time and time again. I am so dearly loved and as brutal as things may ever seem, I am still beautifully and bravely broken

“There will still be love when the worst happens and when the hope doesn’t happen. There will still be love when everything crumbling, and there will be enough love to rebuild [re-member]. There will still be enough love to keep breathing, to keep believing, to keep being and being brave.”

– Ann Voskamp

-c x (16.07.2021)

and He meets me .

Amidst my sadness, the deep of my heart has been searching for my God; in the search He has met me and time again He has made Himself known to me.

In the blackness of night my spine laid pressed against the highway, cooled then from the day passed where sun burnt it’s tar and the wheels of cars crossed hastily across it’s stretch. My palms gripped firmly against the small stones and my body positioned itself parallel to the framing bridge. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to feel either: I only wanted to breathe. In the silence, I listened and counted. The flow of the Kalgan beneath me, 1..2..3. The birds bitter cries, 4..5..6. The rustling tree tops, 7..8..9. Breathe girl, breathe. As I laid in the middle of the highway I studied the glittering stars above me, sprayed like confetti across the heavens and the moon at its whole. In that moment, the deep of my heart cried out to my God in search of Him.

I’ve found comfort in the darkness over the past two weeks. As much as a certain loved one may frown upon that statement, it can not take away from how tangibly present God has been in the deepest of darknesses. To sit here and say that I’ve felt sad would feel more superficial than anything else because it’s something I’ve said and felt for a while; it comes as no surprise. It seems almost stereotypical to say as well that I’ve felt a deeper sadness, for isn’t that to be expected because does depression not fluctuate from time to time? My relationship with God doesn’t make me immune to sadness, it doesn’t immediately remove all past or current sadness- this we’ve established in my week alone with Him. I am also quite aware that my exceedingly low iron and other topsy turvy body functions, don’t make the matters at hand any easier to manage. E and I have also been unboxing uncomfortable boxes, I’ve been encountering past traumas both physically and internally- I suppose it is unhelpful knowing that my family often speak to me so casually about rape they’ve read on the news, or they without warning watch movies in the lounge containing violent rape scenes. Nevertheless, I could try justify my feelings in a thousand different ways, but the fact remains that the deep of my heart is simply riddled with sadness as it searches for my Jesus. Like vines the sadness grows, their thorns piercing the most fragile areas of my heart, their grip tightening and pressing deeply, crying out for the internal pain to be made physical, and with each tear those vines grow. How am I to fight against such sadness? It’s a sadness that calls me to lie down in the centre of the highway. It’s a sadness that lures me to go for long walks in the dark, blinded by the piercing rain and hail. It’s a sadness that stops me in the middle of the street where the rain pours over me in the blackness of night. It’s a sadness that watches me absentmindedly drive without knowing where I am going, without realising I am behind the wheel until I am at a stop. It’s a sadness that beckons me out into the water, wading until my body is submerged, never to surface again. It’s a sadness that questions my every being and tempts me to meet my end. It’s a sadness that pushes me toward my safely trapped, back to places I have been but never want to return to. Oh where would I be without my God? Without Him I would no doubt find myself on that familiar bathroom floor, bloodstained tiles and no hope for life. Without Him I would again be walking out in front of traffic or recklessly swerving on the roads. Without Him I would without hesitation be breaking skin and wading out into the unknown to meet my end. In the deepest of my sadness, My God meets me there but still I search for Him.

I pondered one evening as I walked home in the rain, why do we instinctually want to run away from grief when Jesus so tangibly moves into places of great grief? I recently watched an interview of a 30 year old woman who goes by the name ‘Nightbirde’. She has walked a life that calls out in great grief, great brokenness. With a body riddled with cancer and a timeline unknown, she holds strongly to her faith in God and searches for Him. Ann Voskamp featured Nightbirde on a recent blog post, her words so raw (https://annvoskamp.com/2021/06/how-to-meet-god-at-your-lowest-point/). There was one paragraph that she wrote, as if she took the words from my own heart and wrote them for the world to read: “I am God’s downstairs neighbour, banging on the ceiling with a broomstick. I show up at His door every day. Sometimes with songs, sometimes with curses. Sometimes apologies, gifts, questions, demands. Sometimes I use my key under the mat to let myself in. Other times, I sulk outside until He opens the door to me Himself. I have called Him a cheat and a liar, and I meant it. I have told Him I wanted to die, and I meant it. Tears have become the only prayer I know. Prayers roll over my nostrils and drip down my forearms. They fall to the ground as I reach for Him. These are the prayers I repeat night and day; sunrise, sunset. For I have seen Him in rare form. I have felt His exhale, laid in His shadow, squinted to read the message He wrote for me in the grout: “I’m sad too.” If an explanation would help, He would write me one—I know it. But maybe an explanation would only start an argument between us—and I don’t want to argue with God. I have heard it said that some people can’t see God because they won’t look low enough, and it’s true. Look lower. God is on the bathroom floor.” And He is. She’s right, God is on the bathroom floor; this I know because He has met me there too. God is lying on the highway next to me, He is wading in the water beside me and He is walking through the storm behind me. The deep of my God’s heart cries out to my own, He grieves with me and wraps me in His embrace. In Him I am safely held. Nightbirde quoted that “Life is beautiful and hard at the same time, that’s when we’re fully alive: when we can hold both.” Living isn’t either good or bad, rainbows or clouds, beauty or brokenness. The beauty in life is found amidst the hardships, the suffering. I’ve spoken a lot about suffering and what it means to suffer well, and that’s the very meaning of life itself. God gave us life knowing full well that it wouldn’t be easy, but knowing that we would be able to draw nearer to Him through the pain and that is what brings forth the beauty. Who are we to run from the very thing [grief] that draws us nearer to our Maker [my God]?

The Sunday before last, I spent my morning alone in search of my Jesus. Grabbing a duvet from the lounge and snuggling on the couch with a view of the river; I pondered a lot that morning. I made my way to the kitchen and as I reached for the chai latte sachets, I thought of TC whom had bought them especially for the two of us. I thought of our special chats together and our friendship. I bumped into her parents recently and remember telling her later that whenever I was with them or with her, it felt like home and like family. She told me they are my home, they are my family and they all loved me dearly. Oh how we’ve bloomed over the years. As I stirred the powder through the boiling water I studied the spoon, T had gifted it to TC last year and it’s unique in every way. I remember when TC first showed me the spoon months ago, as she passed it to me I was oddly surprised by the lightness of its weight. Things aren’t always as they appear to be. As I sat in that red leather couch, that same one I’ve sat in for years, I looked at the bricks of this home. Those bricks have seen it all, Christmases spent as family, moments of both laughter and tears. They’ve stood strong through the seasons and they’ve kept safe the treasures inside. The stories they hold. My gaze moved past the bricks and landed upon a little bird sitting on the edge of the gate by the lemon tree. I smiled as I thought of T and how we compared our views over the phone just the Thursday prior, perhaps one day we will sit in her home with a cup of tea and I will see the view she described to me. What a little life we live. Like my friendship with TC, many beautiful things bloom with age. There are many years ahead of me yet.. I’m allowed to say that now because I no longer see myself six feet under in 10 years time: I have a hope for my future in Jesus. In my last post I stipulated a sense of grief that came with T’s birthday, a fear of losing time with her and not being able to live as much time together fully as friends; family. I giggle to myself here because just this last week someone from church asked me if I lived with T and her family- I’m grateful for the family God gives me outside of my own. My Little J looked up at me last week and told me I was part of his family, my heart melted then and there- I’m again so grateful for the family God gives me outside of my own. With age my relationship with my God blooms too, it grows through every season and strengthens as I press into Him. The spoon T gifted to TC, it wasn’t how it appeared to be, but then again.. aren’t most things as such? I’ve always been told not to judge a book by its cover, but isn’t that what we do to each other? How often do we subconsciously form an opinion based on a first glance; whether of ourselves or others. If I pause to even consider the life my younger self imagined, it wasn’t a life anything similar to the one I’ve lived thus far. I look at my body and it doesn’t depict who I am, it’s cover doesn’t show the depths of my inner self and I’m not always as I appear to be. There are very few people who can ‘read me like an open book’, and very few who see me for my insides as opposed to my outsides; for that I am grateful. The bricks of TC’s home reminded me of the bricks I’d once built around my own heart; a strong wall of protection. Though unlike my bricks, her homes bricks has windows and doors that let the light in; my walls shut out God’s light. The only bricks around my little heart are bricks my God has placed there in the form of His armour, His promises to guard my heart and keep it safely held. The windows in my bricks, are the cracks of my brokenness and they allow God’s light to flow freely both in and out of my heart; inward to myself and outward to those around me. My little life would be so insignificant if it weren’t for my significant God whom abides within me, and I within Him.

That same Sunday evening, I roamed the area by the riverside for what felt like hours. Aimlessly I wondered alone, taking in the creation around me and waiting for my God to meet me. My feet found their way to the rivers edge; I stood on a rock that held the potential for a painful fall. Would anyone notice if I were gone? I allowed my mind to follow that thought but my Jesus caught it before it fell. Lowering myself down, I sat and watched the rivers steady flow. A fish darted beneath the surface, leaving a streak behind that turned into a wave of ripples. As the sun set, the waters colour deepened. The rivers surface began to turn from a still mirror, to a rippled canvas. As the skies darkened, the blackness of night rolled in with a storm. I heard the rain off in the distance and knew it was only a matter of time before it would meet me. Would my God meet me too? Still I sat.. watching.. waiting. Droplets turned to a light drizzle, which turned to rain and then to a storm. Still I sat.. watching.. waiting. The wind blew the rain into me and the linen shirt I wore stuck to my wet body like glue. With my arms exposed I found myself completely underdressed for the occasion. Goosebumps arose over each inch of skin, my eyes shut from the rain piercing them and my once straight hair now fell in wet ringlets over my face. I looked down to study my hands, my skin had turned red as the cold ran through my veins- I didn’t know it at the time but the painful stiffness would last another hour before my hands remembered how to function. Each drop of rain that hit my skin felt like a gunshot. Not one piece of my body was dry and still I sat.. watching.. waiting. The silence of my heart cried out to my God, screams of pain and desperation called out to Him. In my search I lost sight of the river as it disappeared into the blackness, I heard the roars of heaven as if my God Himself were crying with me.

Much like my sadness, the storm came slowly and then all at once. I sat and heard the rain in the distance, I knew it would meet me eventually. In the same way I knew that as I continued down this journey, the sadness would come. But in both instances what I didn’t realise was that the dam would break when I least expected it, I would find myself drowning without the time I thought I’d have to prepare myself. It took everything within me to pull my body off of the ground. As my feet carried me back toward TC’s home, the shoes holding them flooded further with water and the force of the storm pushed against me. The walk home was long but the black of night and the raging storm made it all the more longer. Unable to see what laid before me, I wondered if I would become one with the storm? Would I be lifted and carried into the unknown? Could that be my breakthrough? Might God remove me from my suffering? The rush of a truck and the splash back from its tyres, quickly brought me back to reality and as I continued walking down the highway I realised I was very much stuck in this world. My tears collided with the rain that rolled down my cheeks, down my nose and neck. I listened to the thunder as it moved through the heavens above, the trees swayed and my feet struggled to navigate their way home. Little did I know that the storm was only brewing and it would continue to grow through the night, leaving traces of impact throughout this little town. I fell asleep that night, listening to the sounds of the storm as it rattled the windows of this old home. I wondered if the bricks were bothered by the forceful gale and whether the poppies in the garden would see the light of morning. The storm that raged within me felt to be challenging the one outdoors.. which would be larger.. which would be more damaging.. more brutal? I reached out to T for prayer before switching off for the night. Shivering in bed, I found myself watching the dancing darkness.. waiting. As I searched for my God, I spoke to Him. My broken heart cried out to His own, He met me there and He held me close, through the night. I woke after shortly after 2am that Monday morning, the storm outside still raging; as was the storm in me.

I laid awake in bed until 5am and then stumbled to the kitchen to make myself a chai latte, before sitting in the lounge to spend time with God. As the sky began to lighten with time, it revealed the damage created by the storm that began whilst I sat riverside with Jesus. We lost a lot of trees to the storm and before leaving for work I did damage control where I could at TC’s home. Driving along the roads all I saw were signs of the nights rage, pieces of debris left behind and damage on every road. Some areas were hit harder than others and the only thing circling my mind was.. ‘what a brutal storm’. As I was praying I approached the winery and saw that a large tree had fallen between the vineyard. Not far from that was a car abandoned in a ditch and more debris was everywhere. I began to see beauty amidst the brutal brokenness of the storm. God’s power was made so evidently known and I couldn’t help but draw similarities to my own life. What if I could view my brutal brokenness the way I viewed the storms’? What if I could view it as a beautiful depiction of my God’s power? Could I stand in awe of the brutal brokenness in my life and my heart? As I drove along the highway my heart questioned: What if our brokenness beckons us to be safely held by the One who calls us His Beloved?

I lost my first poppy to the brutal storm that night. Out of the four that had grown I allowed only my very first to keep its bud, in hope of its bloom. My mind wondered what would have become of that single poppy, had the storm not destroyed it.. Would it have bloomed? What colour would it have been? Would I have been able to preserve and frame it beside the poppies T gave me? The deep of my heart yearned for the loss of that poppy and the life it had ahead- not so much for the poppy itself but for its resemblance of me. I was that poppy not that long ago; I was little, still growing, with a life ahead of me. Had the traumas not begun, I wonder what colours my life would have been? Would I have bloomed? The smallest seed of resentment and anger began to grow in the deep of my heart as I pondered these thoughts. How could God allow the traumas? How could He let them stunt my growth at such a young age? What about my colours and my preservation? It wasn’t fair! I searched harder for my God. The seed of resentment and anger quickly became washed over and flooded by feelings of sadness and longing.. Longing for answers and for the life I could have had. My Jesus met me in that place of longing. He held my sadness, my breaking heart, and He drew me in to Himself. God opened the eyes of my heart and revealed to me the truth- You see I did bloom, despite the trauma: It comes back to that concept of the brutal hail melting to water that brings forth my poppies’ growth. My colours are also beginning to grow as my blooming takes place in the safeness of my Jesus: God preserved the deep of my heart and since I the day I came home to Him, He has been bringing forth my colours and growth. As T so beautifully said: I am continuing to fall in love with God. The storms of my life may not have been foreseen or fair, as the storm that took my poppy; But it didn’t end my life and just as the poppy will soon grow back, so I am growing back- safely held by my God. Storms will still come, I may still loose poppies to its brutality but there will ultimately still be growth. In that very same way, storms in my own life will still come and knock me down but they will continue to grow me in my faith and who I am in Jesus.

A week and three days of continued sadness and suffering has since passed and I’d like to think that I have suffered as well as I could, if anything I know I have pressed into Jesus as deeply as I could; despite the battles I faced. Between work, home and everything between, my soul is growing weary and the deep sadness I spoke of earlier only deepens. My sadness sometimes teeters on the edge of creating space between my God and I, and I don’t know how to stop it.

This breaking heart of mine yearns to be safely held. 

There’s something about the way my Jesus holds me in my brokenness. I close my eyes, if I keep them shut for long enough I can almost feel my scars aligning with His own as He holds my heart in His hands, I can almost feel the pressure of His love embracing me all around.

In the sun one afternoon I slept at my families home, as the anaesthetic wore off and as I cried myself to sleep, I laid with my head resting on my eldest cat. I fell asleep listening to the rhythm of his purr; as I have done for the last 13 years. Each year of my life since birth, I have had a cat but none like my current eldest. There have been countless of nights over the years where I have sobbed and he has quite literally come to lick the tears off my cheeks and lay with me. There was a day in grade 7 where he walked into school during lunch, he came right up to me and purred in my arms before I sent him home. I have photographs of him sleeping with me, his paw over my right hand. When I am not at home, especially over the year spent in and out of hospital, I have videos sent to me where he would spend hours darting from my room, to my couch in the lounge as he cried out for me. I have truely never held an attachment to a living creature, as strongly as my attachment with my eldest cat. To this day he remains in love with me and is there whenever I need him, through each trauma and each season. I draw many similarities when it comes to my relationship with God. My God wipes my tears, He lays with me as I fall asleep, He holds my right hand always and He is forever there for me. He too has seen me through my traumas and has loved me all the same. My God is made known to me in the constant purring of my eldest, with my head rested, He holds me and He meets me there.

My Little J recently asked me to play drs with him at work, so I laid on the floor pretending to be sick and out of his medical bag, he pulled a block. Passing me the block he said to me, “Chocolate to make it all better.” I smiled as I thought of T, if only things were that simple. Aside from Little J, there is only one other child who is the reason I go to work each day. God has challenged me to leave traces of Himself wherever I go, He has given me a heart for His children. This girl, Little L, breaks me heart each time I see her. Her life up to her current age of 4, has held unspeakable traumas and she abides in a home where she is overlooked and unloved. She cries each day, quite literally until she sees me. Wherever I am she finds me, she holds onto any piece of me she can reach and snuggles into me with the purest of loves. We had a lunch picnic alone together this past week, she followed me when I went for my lunch break and after refusing food from anyone all day, she sat and ate with me. For the first time she looked up to me with tear filled eyes, put her right hand on my arm and told me “I love you and I’m happy now”. The strings of my heart screeched like an old violin, and my own eyes filled with tears. I’ve watched this girl have meltdowns that’s turned her into something inhuman and detached from true herself, a trauma response, instinct subconscious self preservation. This girls smile has the ability to take away any sadness you may have previously felt and her love for Jesus is surreal at her age, let alone given the life she’s grown up in. She laid on my lap and as I stroked her cheek, she ever so gently traced the burned scar on my hand. God has used this little girl to make Himself known to me in more ways than one, He has done the same with Little J. In the most unexpected moments at work, when all seems unbearable, my little loves will find me and hold me. Little J often cups my face with both his hands, looks deeply into my eyes and tells me “he loves me, that I’m beautiful and ‘his’ sweetie girl”. These two children have the purest love for God and He uses them to remind me of His love for me.. God’s little kisses, as T named it long ago. He is always present, He is always in love with me and He traces my scars gently. Nothing can keep His love from me. The three of us sat down to read a book not too long ago and the final page read “But the nicest feeling of all is when a kind person gives me a hug and says “Everything is going to be okay”. I can in all honesty say that in the last 21 years, there are only two people who have hugged me whilst saying those exact words; T and R. I said it in my previous post but I’ll say it again, I think it is beautiful, all the ways in which God inserts Himself into pieces of our days, the way He meets us, the way He subtly makes Himself known to us and becomes more tangibly present when we need Him most.

“I could really do with a hug”. That sounds quite blunt but it’s also quite raw and true. The hug I’m referring to isn’t just any old hug, but it’s the type of hug that makes everything feel a little more okay. I typed those words into a text message that I never sent, my heart cracked a little deeper with each letter I backspaced and as the words disappeared I sobbed. Believe it or not I never used to be one for physical touch or hugs. Growing up hugs weren’t something known to me and traumas made me all the more afraid of them. It’s not since the week before I began seeing T that hugs found their meaning to me. You see, I was quite close to J at that stage and one night I found myself at her doorstep in the blackness. Broken and ready to end my life, I was welcomed by her and her husband, S, with open arms. S hugged me first and to this day I can still feel that hug, it was the first real hug I’d received from a safe man in as long as I could remember. It was also the first hug since I was raped that October, only a matter of weeks prior. J embraced me next and the two of us cried on her couch until late that night. The two of us established a safe code, it sounded silly but it was something we both felt was needed at the time. “I need a hug”. I smile as I write this because as broken as my heart feels in this moment, I only now realised the similarities between my safe code with J, and the unsent message I wrote just the other day. I have come to learn that a hug, may or sometimes may not, always appear to be of much significance. However, the beauty is in being able to come back to a hug at any given moment when it’s needed most. R, our little loves and I often find ourselves in a ‘sandwich’ hug; where the four of us become one and it’s those hugs that my heart goes back to time and time again. Over this past year one hug I have come back to more so than the rest, is the one T gave me as she held me on the floor after my overdose last June. My heart goes back there often because it’s a hug that made God so tangibly known to me even though at that time I’d walked away from Him. As my relationship with my God has deepened over these last few months, He has shown me more clearly how He has carried me through my brokenness. Above each example He has shown me, that hug from T is one I am so often lead back to. I can close my eyes and still feel her arms around me, I can hear her heart beating as my head pressed against her chest and I know undoubtedly that God held me there too. That moment so beautifully depicts how God held me and how He continues to hold me each day, He wraps me in His love and there I know I am safe and secure in Him. On my saddest days, where the suffering drowns me, as much as I know God holds me, I could really still do with a hug.

I walked out to the riverside one afternoon and as I walked down Bon Accord, before me was a rainbow in the sky and around me was a tangible sense of God’s presence. The deep of my heart ever so gently aches each time I see a rainbow because I know that in that moment my God is still fulfilling His promises to me. As I wandered down that long road I chased after that rainbow like a child, foolishly hoping to reach it’s end as if beneath it were God Himself; my Forever Home. I reached the end of the road and still I hadn’t caught the rainbows end, as my heart yearned more desperately for my Promise Keeper; He reminded me that much like the rainbow, the end of His love for me can never be reached because it never ends, He promises that He will be my Forever Home. The rainbow disappeared behind the clouds and in my search for my God, I lost sight of Him. I think life is a bit like that sometimes. In the midst of our storms we struggle to find God, we struggle to see how He is keeping His promises to us. But when the storm passes and the rainbow appears, we find out God and we realise that He was fulfilling His promises to us all along. I am learning how to find God amidst the storm, I am learning to know that my Promise Keeper is there regardless of whether or not I can see Him. The deep of my heart was safely held by my God that afternoon and as I returned to TC’s home, I laid on the grass, wrapped myself in a blanket and with the *almost* hot sun shining down on me, I fell asleep talking to my Jesus.

The worship in church over the weekend was so beautiful. I’ve lately found myself struggling with the volume and ‘hype’ of the songs we’ve sung, but on Sunday I just felt God speaking to me throughout the worship. As I stood next to one of my dearest loved one, my heart smiled because I no longer searched for my Jesus. My sadness was still there, but it was safely held by the One who held me. We again sang a song that pleads for God to lead us in His love to those around us; this plead I prayed at a conference in Perth nearly 4 years ago. On Sunday as I stood there, at Home in my God, beside someone He blessed me with, my heart knew that prayer was at last answered. Another song spoke about how there was nothing that our God can’t do, with one word He calms the storm, He heals the broken inside of us, with just one touch He makes the presence of heaven known to us, He opens our eyes to see that there is nothing He can not do. I read a blog this past week about sitting with the tension between “He can” and “Even if He doesn’t”. The post spoke about how we are able to hold onto the truth that God is good, even when He doesn’t answer our pleas the way we know He can. I have plead for many things, foremost I have plead for the trauma to be taken away but God hasn’t given me that ‘snap fix’- the same goes for my battles with Gollum. Even though God can, it doesn’t mean He always will. And if He doesn’t, it doesn’t mean He loves me any less or that He isn’t keeping His promises. I have grown to learn that sometimes God answers our desperate pleas in ways we weren’t anticipating, and at times where we least expected them. In my deep sadness last week I looked up at E with tearful eyes as she told me that we couldn’t just fast forward or skip through the hard stuff. She reminded me of the bear hunt children’s book and said that the only thing we could do, was wade through one step at a time. There are so many moments throughout the days and weeks where I plead with God to take away the things that hurt so deeply, but He doesn’t take them away. Do you remember quite a while ago, I wrote that God doesn’t always ‘snap-fix’ the heavy chapters of life, but what He does promise is that He will give us what we need to get through the suffering and He will carry us through? I hold onto those truths because I know that without my Promise Keeper carrying me, and sitting with me, and safely holding me: I would be so terribly lost. There is nothing my God can’t do, and when He doesn’t remove my suffering; He makes Himself known to me and opens my eyes to see how He is keeping His promises to me.

I drove to work in silence this morning and the sun rose my God painted the skies with colours of His love. I knew then that He is still keeping His promises to me. I know that in this deep sadness, in the darkness and in the suffering; my Jesus meets me here. I take comfort in knowing that when I find it hard to love myself, when the size of my body hurts me, when the handprints I see and feel stings my skin, when a hug is out of reach- I am still deemed as worthy of an unconditional love, I am still fearfully and wonderfully made, I still beautifully depict the image of my God and He still safely holds me in my brokenness.

-c x

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MSJVwKGT1I

finding peace in pieces .

Ann Voskamp named ‘ink’ as the cheapest form of medicine, I stand here today in complete agreeance. Signo, UniBall, 0.7, the only pen ever to write across the pages of my journals. It’s ink has recorded the brutal chapters of my life, the tears and sorrow. But ink has also recorded the beautiful chapters, the testimonies of God’s goodness and it’s counted the ways in which He has loved me. The ink across my pages tell a story of brutal brokenness that is being transformed into beautiful breakthroughs.

It was nearing midnight and a single poppy gracefully swayed outside my bedroom window, a second poppy began to grow to it’s left and another to it’s right. All poppies were yet to flower and as I fixed my gaze upon them, I forgot about the world around me. I forgot about the fear I felt. I forgot about the raging fight my parents just had. I forgot about the broken glass and turned over furniture. I forgot about the slamming doors and the violence. I forgot about what happens when I tried to get between them to stop the arguing. I forgot about dialling 000 without pressing ‘ring’. I forgot about the fact that only one parent was left, whilst the other had sped off into the unknown. I forgot everything as I remembered what God shared with me about my poppies, only a few weeks earlier. Do you remember the morning I sat watching hail fall between my poppy seedlings? That morning, God showed me that whilst life can be brutal, He can use that brutality to bring growth; the way the hail turned to water which produced growth. Prior to finding myself in a mess of tears that night, I had shared with TR about my pursuit of God, I told her about my week alone with Him in hospital and all He had done for me since. When I left hospital for the last time, my sole prayer was that my need for God would only deepen. It took a matter of weeks before I realised that God was answering my prayers, the waves of battles kept washing over me and I felt defeated until I realised that they were washing me up at the foot of the cross – that continues to be the only place I want to be. My heart that night, as I sat alone with my God, found it’s home in Him and He kept me safe and secure. It was uncomfortable to sit with the uncertainty of whether or not my family would remain one of four, as many times as my parents have reached the point of walking out, neither ever had until that night when at once they both did. I closed my eyes and my mind took me back to dark corners of my past, memories replaying vividly of childhood trauma. I sobbed for a while, fearful of the unknown but R beautifully reminded me that God was bigger than the circumstances I found myself in and everything would be okay, even if it didn’t feel okay in the moment. My heart hurt because after what felt like the most perfect weekend, I thought it probably wasn’t the most ideal way to end it, but in hindsight ending up at the foot of the cross was all that my heart needed. 

God has a way of using the most unexpected circumstances, from the most painful to the most seemingly insignificant, to constantly bring me back to Him; back to the foot of the cross. I shared with T recently about how God keeps bringing me back to a place where I am left with no other option than to realign my dependance solely upon Him. Ps Shaph shared the most beautiful perspective on this topic at church recently, he said: “Sometimes God allows weakness between a precious gift He has given us, so that we can keep coming back to a full dependance and security in Him alone”. God has gifted me with precious relationships [friends and family] but every now and then, God allows a moment of weakness and insecurity, that brings me back to Himself and reminds me that my relationship with Him is most important. God continually reminds me that He is my home, that I am safe and secure in Him alone. I have held onto God’s promises a lot more tightly lately; His promise to be my home, His promise to keep me safe and secure, His promise to hold me in my brokenness, His promise to love me unconditionally and to hold my right hand. Each time I forget, I look down to my wrist.. Isaiah 41:13.

In church last Sunday M stood up to lead us in communion. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us that for the joy that was set before Jesus, He endured the cross. M shared with us the truth that we were Jesus’ joy, He endured the cross for us and because of His deep love for us. Isn’t that beautiful? I think that the love that our Father has for us, is sometimes taken for granted. When I pause to actually think about the type of love God has for me, I feel so overwhelmed because it’s a love that allowed for the death of His own Son. I think of the deep love in my life, I think of those closest to my heart and my heart aches at the very though of losing those people. I truely can’t fathom the love my God has for me. My Jesus sacrificed His life for my very own. Would He be proud of the life I have lived? I hear T’s voice again.. “His heart aches for you, this is not what He had planned for you”. God didn’t plan for me to live a life ruled by trauma, governed by Gollum and safely trapped. God’s heart breaks with my own and He has been showing me that there is so much more to life than what I’ve experienced. How can I accept this life, given to me through Jesus’ sacrifice, without sacrificing myself as well? We are also called to be a living sacrifice. We are called to surrender unto God each day. We are called to be mouldable, to be His hands and His feet. I need to die to Gollum so that I may live for God. I’ve found myself relapsing a bit more than usual lately, with the lack of control between work and home, the uncertainty around life and the longing for things to be okay. My battle against Gollum has been flaring up and growing hard again but the Sunday before last, Ps Shaph shared something that really spoke to me; he said: “When we put our hope and faith in God, we become safe and secure in Him.” God has been helping me find my safety and security in Him, He has been teaching me that to do so requires faith. Hebrews 1:11 reminds us that ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen’. Since my special week in hospital with God, my heart has found it’s home in Him. It’s funny because the more I pursue God, the more He pursues me. Ps Shaph continued to share that; “When we put our heart and treasure in God, He will take care of what we care about”. The more I seek to live given in my brokenness, the more tenderly God blesses my heart with what He knows fills my love tank’ as my precious girl calls it; unconditional love from loved ones, special time with them. Our Ps also shared that when we give of ourselves to others, a gap is left and God is then able to fill that gap with more of His abundance. I think that beautifully partners with Ann Voskamp’s concept of broken givenness. God is calling me to be His hands and His feet, and when I make myself available to Him, He moulds me and uses me in my brokenness to bless those around me. I often feel like I have nothing to give, but our pastor reminded us that it’s not about what we have, it’s about what God has- I’ve seen the truth to this because I’ve watched as I’ve come to God broken and empty-handed, God has multiplied my offering and blessed both those around me and myself. Proverbs 11:24 tells us that ‘Those who give freely, will receive in abundance’.

Feelings of failure are no stranger to me, more so recently. I was absentmindedly vacuuming at work the other day when God asked me why I thought He now loved me any less because I have been battling more? Did He not love me last year when I walked away from Him? Did He not love me as I swallowed pills on end? Did He not love me as I drew red lines across my skin or painted shapes over my body? Did He not love me when I begged to die? Has He not proved to me that no matter what, He will still love me? So why now, that I have found myself struggling insignificantly a little bit more than usual, do I suddenly think He can no longer love me or bare the sight of me? Why do I feel like a failure, too ashamed to enter into His throne room? It’s becoming clear to me that I have began placing unrealistic and unattainable expectations upon myself, I have allowed the opinions and expectations of others to get the better of me. Part of me has been fearful to admit that I have been battling more so than usual, but by now I know that recovery isn’t always clear skies and that sometimes the hail does come. In spite of all the work God has done within me, we all know that it doesn’t mean I am immune to suffering; my broken pieces still yearn for peace. A lot of my fear has stemmed from a fear of loss. I’ve lost a lot to Gollum, we’ve discussed this is past posts. But the losses I fear now are deeper and closer to my heart. What if in admitting to the struggle, I lose my progress? What if I add years onto the long wait before T and I can enter into friendship? What if I lose our Sunday coffees? What if I lose time with R and our little loves? Oh how grateful I am to know that those fears are irrational. As I read one of Ann Voskamp’s many books the other night, she spoke so rawly about the pain she felt when she lost one of her dearest friends – I thought of T and R, I sobbed. Granted it was the end of an emotionally long day and there were other factors at play, but my tears came from a very real place. It was T’s birthday not too long ago and there was a part of my heart that felt a deep sorrow for that day to arrive. You see, in the weeks leading up there was a lot of excitement when it came to buying a gift and planning for her birthday, but amidst that was the very real reality of mortality. I won’t have my people forever. It sounds silly but I sometimes hate myself for not being born sooner, and for not meeting them sooner; both of which I had no control over. I often catch myself replaying my time with them, wondering if I showed them that I deeply care and value them, wondering if I loved them enough or how I could have loved them more. I do this with many of my relationships and it’s not a matter of unhealthy attachment, it’s a matter of me having lost enough in life to realise how valuable these relationships are. I actually told T the other day that it saddens my heart to know I lived 19 years without knowing her, that I can’t go back in time and meet her sooner so that we could be friends for longer. There’s beauty in the brokenness of my heart because yes, my heart breaks when I think of losing those I love most, but my God holds those relationships and He brings forth beauty and growth. God is very actively centred in the relationships dearest to my heart, He is orchestrating each aspect and He watches over them. Coming back to where I am at now, in retrospective things really aren’t bad; I know I am still recovering and I know I am still pursuing God above Gollum. When I put my faith in God, when I sacrifice my own hearts desires to place God’s desires first, when I pursue Him and surrender to Him; He takes care of my heart and He allows me to press into Him, trusting that in His perfect timing all will fall into place. You see, as I continue my recovery, I continue to keep an open line of communication between myself and people like T or R. In my honesty, I am always met with an abundance of love, understanding, support and comfort. My God is never disappointed in my struggling, and neither are those who love me. I have a hunger for Jesus and I have been tasting His goodness amidst the battles of recovery. God has blessed me with tastes of the life that is to come, a life of friendships and precious moments. My people aren’t going anywhere, I won’t lose them and I know that they will continue to love me no matter what. The battle may be hard but these tastes of God’s goodness and the life awaiting me, makes the struggles all the more worth it. 

There’s a mother and her daughter who sit alone together each Sunday. I’ve seen them often and the three of us have even bumped into each other at headspace before. Each week this mother shows so much affection toward her daughter, they look so in love and watching them praise God together is so beautiful. A Sunday not too long ago, I watched on as the mother ran her fingers through her daughters hair, her arm then resting around her daughters back for the rest of the service. H and I had just spoken before the service about our families. She had asked me if my family goes to church. How should I have answered when the truth is that they haven’t gone in many years? She asked if we spoke about God at home. How was I supposed to say that God isn’t something we can speak freely about at home, it’s been more than six years since we did bible study as a family or prayed together. To my surprise I found myself being quite honest with H, risking judgement, but to my greater surprise her home was much like mine. It seems that neither of us have an open relationship with our family, where talking about our faith and excitement in Jesus is welcomed. I’ve said in previous posts, how this reality saddens me, especially in light of the monumental and ‘remarkable’ changes God has bestowed upon and within me- I suppose that in hindsight my relationship with my family, both deepens my need for God and my gratefulness for relationships that do welcome the excited sharing of faith. My heart felt heavy as I watched this mother and her daughter in church, my heart longed for my own mother and our own beautiful relationship. It was as if God sensed the heaviness weighing in, and He scooped my heavy heart right up into His loving hands. Holding my heart, God reminded me of how truely loved and blessed I am; outside of my family. My phone buzzed in that moment with a message from TR who sat behind me, telling me she loved me- completely unexpected but beautiful. T’s daughter and her husband sat beside me, they originally sat in front of me but when O saw me he moved with K to sit next to me on my left hand side- completely unexpected but also beautiful. Before the service T and I had shared a cuppa, she’d invited me to church early and I’m so glad I went, it felt so natural and precious- completely unexpected but so very beautiful. I didn’t know it at the time but I would later be invited to spend time with R and our little loves- completely unexpected but dearly beautiful. God is so looking out for me, He knows what my heart needs and when I seek out my safety and security in Him: He comes through for me. My Jesus sat in the empty chair on my right hand side, He held me the way that mother held her daughter, and He told me not to fear (Isaiah 41:13).

I drove out to Luke Pen the other afternoon, the wheels of my car hit the pot holes; 1…2…3. I held my breath and tried to breathe in rhythm with the holes. It felt like there was a hole in my heart. I parked my car and walked my body down to the riverside. I placed my hands in the icy water and sat with God for hours on end, laying and dozing in and out of sleep, just being with Him in His presence. Together we sat with difficult emotions, we painted them and let go of them gently. I allowed myself to be washed up at the foot of the cross. This is something I have been practicing with E: We draw a circle in which we paint the tricky emotions, then we paint a vibrant defined ring of safety around it to keep the tricky emotions entrapped, before lastly flooding the surrounding page with a safe colour. Thursday, the 10th of June, marked one year since the start of my longest admission. I reflected back to that morning of my overdose and I still only remember things in flashes; pills by the waterside, sobbing in T’s arms on the floor, telling my mother while T held my hand in ED, the overwhelming feeling of walking into the psych ward.. I remember the first week being a blur of endless tremors and lots of tears. Oh how things have changed since then, they got worse and then they got better and then we seesawed between. Yet out of everything, my greatest blessing was coming home to God and seeing His glory and faithfulness in everything. Over the weeks passed, I have found myself needing my Jesus a lot more than usual. I have found myself ever so desperate for the safety and security that comes from Him alone.

I saw a perpetrator the other day. The most recent trauma but the eldest of the men. He’d cut his grey hair and I had to look twice, just to make sure. But I quickly realised the initial glance was enough to know for sure because a face as such isn’t one you easily forget. The flashbacks since have been heightened and the reality of ptsd has been washing over me like a tsunami; brutally one after the other. I’d like to say it’s washed me up at the foot of the cross each time, but truth be told when it comes to trauma, I really do battle to see my God amidst it all.

There are times where I feel overly frustrated with myself for the way I feel around men. I sat down at a local cafe not too long ago and there was an older man who sat across from me, perhaps a metre or so away. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him watching me and smiling and out of panic I looked away. I felt uneasy and unsure of what to do, I looked for my safety and security in God and my again my broken pieces searched for peace as I held on a little tighter to my olive green cardigan. Later that morning I found myself grocery shopping and I’m generally quite okay when it comes to a busy supermarket, but that day I was constantly looking over my shoulder and cowering away as big men walked past or stood near me. It’s become quite habitual for me to plan my escapes, no matter where I go or what I am doing, I always have a plan at the back of my head. I was telling T about a walk I went for near where both herself and TC stay, I was walking but saw a dark figure watching me then moving behind some trees. It was after dark and the street lights offered dim scattered light. I began to run and knew that if something were to happen, I had a plan for where I would go and who I would phone. I never go to places that don’t have a safe person in relatively close proximity. Luke Pen is my daily place, riverside with Jesus, but also close enough to both T and TC that if I were ever in immediate danger I could phone them after the emergency services. My brain appears to be wired in search of safety and security, always seeking possibilities for danger and warning signs. Perhaps this is a cautiously pessimistic way to live, but I don’t know how to change that. It can make daily interactions quite difficult, as per the examples above of simply visiting a cafe or a supermarket. I’ve even found myself battling in church of all places. There are genuinely very few men, four that come to mind, around whom I feel safe because I know that if something were to happen and they were near, that they’d undoubtedly step in; these are the husbands of my nearest, R, TC, TR, and T. 

Truth be told, I battle to feel God or to comprehend where He was when the traumas took place. I struggle to understand why He won’t fix me so that I can stop feeling so afraid. My shattered heart knows that His heart breaks with my own, it knows that He didn’t will for the trauma to happen and that He didn’t plan for it.. but it also knows that He allowed it and if He allowed the brokenness then surely there must be a reason big enough and important enough, because within that He allowed His own heart to be broken. 

Every time I think of trauma and the boxes that go with it, every time I sit across from E and every time I sit with the tricky emotions; I hear T’s voice. “You gotta talk about it, it’s gonna fester”. Someone who loved Jude told him that, with the greatest compassion and gentleness they explained to him that the longer he waited, the harder it would become and the more it would fester within him, eating him alive with guilt and blame, haunting him each and every day. Jude lived a life that formed the very meaning of brutal, his story and his words lived inside my mind for months and months on end. Every now and then I hear his voice and I think of him. Both his loved one and mine, they’re not wrong. The more time passes, the more complex those boxes become. Like a tea bag left in too long, it brews and brews until it’s contents become a strong and bitter mixture. E touched my deepest box in our last session, she didn’t mean to and if I’m honest it was my carelessness that lead us there. Half of one sentence: Aunt and her husband. That was all it took, that was enough for my mind to spiral toward my safely trapped. I quickly found myself grappling at any string leading toward my safely held instead. My eyes spoke for me and E told me to breathe, I muttered that I didn’t feel safe with that box and she gently spoke me through my heightening distress. As every space and crevice around and within me was flooded with olive green, the faces of my safest people appeared around me and my Jesus began to hold me. Gollum questioned how pathetic I was for falling apart because of four little words, but God reminded me that I am not pathetic: I am His Beloved and I was safely held. The beauty amidst this brutality is that when we find ourselves ashamed and alone in our brokenness, Jesus wraps us in His most intimate grace; He cups our face and draws us nearer to Himself. I understand that with time I will need to visit the boxes of my past, however I am learning that I won’t need to face them alone and there is no time or pressure that is placed upon me to do so.

Growing up I hated anything that resembled my body. My body has always felt dirty and gross, I have always been disgusted by what I saw in the mirror and tore up any photo’s of myself. The way I saw myself derived from a place of trauma, when I saw myself I saw hands all over my body, I saw unwanted marks and things that I wish I could un-see. For months I have been deliberately praying over my body and the way in which I see it, I have been praying that God will help me see myself the way He sees me and the way people who love me see me. It wasn’t until 13.06 that God answered those prayers. I sobbed because for the first time in my life, I truely saw myself. I saw myself in God’s image, beautifully held and made whole in my brokenness, fearfully and wonderfully made. For the first time I felt what I believe to be the beginning of me falling in love with myself. I found myself reminded that God is love (1 John 4:8), Jesus told us that the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). God’s word tells us that we can not love others, let alone love Him, if we don’t love ourselves. The more I fall in love with my God, the more I begin to love myself. I had this discussion with TR, she looked at me through tears and reminded me of a time when she told me that God would bring me out on the other side of this journey. She told me that right after 19.03.2020, the day I chose to die. I didn’t die that day and when I saw her again, she told me that God gave me a new 19, Isaiah 43:19; “See, I am doing a new thing!”. I looked up at her and smiled because God, has done a new thing; He has picked up my broken pieces and made me new and whole in Him. TR pointed out that though it wasn’t the 19th of June, it was 13.06 and added together it equalled 19. Isn’t God just incredible? The way He fits the puzzle pieces of our lives together, so perfectly in His timing?

I have found that since the day of the breaking, Gollum has been quieter but still present at times. Most recently he has been trying to convince me that I need to get back to my lowest weight before I can stop pursuing weight loss, but what Gollum fails to realise is that my heart is set on pursuing God and nothing he says can change that. My human heart has been tempting beyond what I thought was possible, but each time my God has come through for me and He has held me tightly; safely and securely. Where I have fallen, my God has picked me up and helped me get back on track. I have been struggling again lately but I have no doubt that my God will continue to pick me up and that as I walking into this new week; He will help me get back on track again. My body appears to fluctuate between gaining and losing weight. I don’t know my number but I can see it when I see myself and I can feel it. I looked at my body the other morning and a streak of concern ran through me. An hour or so later I found T asking me if I thought I’d lost weight. How was I supposed to answer “yes, I’m worried I have”? How could I tell her that when I saw my body my first thought was “I need to gain weight”? How could I help her understand that my motives weren’t driven from fear of admission, but rather from a place of just wanting to recover? It wasn’t a matter of ‘fixing’ anything before seeing her again, it was an innocent desperation for the life God has planned for me; a life filled with cups of tea and the fulfilment of dreams. 

Do you remember that special thought that God gave me in hospital? “I have lost enough weight”.. Well, I’m learning that the thought didn’t only apply to when I was at my lowest weight. In reality, the weight gain has been harder to come to terms with, than I thought it would be. T and I had our first blind weight the other week and my goodness, when she helped me backward onto the scale, the lump in my throat grew and my lungs forgot how to breathe. I was terrified and felt so vulnerable in that very moment, being the first time my heart was glad that it was T who was with me, and not a nurse I didn’t know. I studied my bare body in the mirror this morning and saw that my bones have begun to fade. I always knew, subconsciously, that recovering from Anorexia would mean an inevitable weight gain but it still hits me like a smack in the face every now and then. It was quite different this morning, because unlike most other times, I didn’t actually spiral downwards. Truth be told, I felt like crying and tearing my body to shreds. As the knot in my throat tightened, I forced my lungs to take another breath. I lifted my head, looked at myself, and said: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image, this body is not my body because it belongs to God, I am His hands and His feet, I am beautiful in Him”. My body. God’s body. Jesus’ body. Jesus sacrificed His body for my own, He lost His life so that I could gain mine. God made my body in His image so that I can bring Him glory. The meaning of my name derives from Christ Like. How do I reflect Jesus? How can I reflect Jesus? My stare lingered a little longer than usual and I began to find the beauty hidden between the depths of weight gain in recovery. You see, if I were to remain at my lowest weight then how would my body ever heal and repair? How would I ever grow strong enough to fulfil God’s plans for me? How would I become His hands and feet? Or more so, how would I ever escape my safely trapped? With each gram I gain, I also gain life. That sounds so stereotypical but if you think about it, it’s also very true. God is growing me in so many more ways than I realise. Because yes, my number is changing, but do you know what that actually means?? It doesn’t mean I’m getting fat or losing control.. It means that God is restoring and healing my body. It comes back to the verse God gave me through TR last year: Isaiah 43:19. That verse ends by saying; “Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”. I am growing and I think that the process is so beautiful. I suppose it’s again, a bit like my poppy seedlings.. I am growing but just because I draw my water from the good Well, it doesn’t mean that some battles won’t hit me like the brutal hail. Growing isn’t easy, but I am beginning to perceive it for what it is. Growing is God’s way of moulding me. If I am not broken, He can not pick up my pieces. If I do not surrender fully, He can not shape those pieces into a new creation.. a new thing. My bones are fading away, but with them fades Gollum too. With gradual loss, comes gradual gain. I am gaining a life that grows to reflect my God and His glory. I welcome the sacrificial loss.

My deepest desire is to pursue God through my recovery. I may not necessarily need to ‘gain weight’ as my instinct thought outlined, I may not have even looked as if I’d lost weight the morning T phoned and asked.. but I knew how I’d felt and I knew that I wanted to gain more of God- I needed to gain more of God if I wanted to beat Gollum. I realised that the last few weeks had taken away from my pursuit, Gollum had subtly creeped into aspects of my day where He infiltrated my behaviours without me fully realising. I’m not trying to blame Gollum to claim my innocence, but I will assure you that I’ve been trying my utmost best. That’s the problem though.. I was trying my utmost best. Somewhere along the lines I began to forget about God’s hand in my journey. I stopped that morning to find myself exhausted from trying so desperately to get back on track in my recovery. That same night I continued reading one of Ann Voskamp’s books and it dawned on me that I really had subconsciously begun to take things back into my own hands. Ann wrote about the concept of having ‘God-Alzheimer’s’, a very real battle we all face from time to time. The concept is centred around the fact that we sometimes find ourselves so busy and engrossed in the life we are living, that we get distracted and forget about God in the process. How is it that we can so easily forget the face of God, forget that He calls us His Beloved and forget that He is carrying us through? If there is anything I can take away from looking back on my life, it’s that God has carried me through. There is not a moment where I can truely say He was not there. And yes, that goes for amidst the trauma too. I am trying to recover from so much more than just Anorexia Nervosa.. I am trying to recover from a life spent thinking nothing of myself, not valuing who God created me to be, not honouring Him with the life I lived, living trapped in past trauma and the deep rooted beliefs that came from my upbringing. There is so much more that I am recovering from and it’s not as simple as deciding to recover because making the choice to recover is only the first step outside.. there’s mountains and valleys left to go. In remembering God, we allow the room for Him to re-member us, to put our broken back together and to carry us through both the beautiful and the brutal chapters of life. I am learning that I never cry alone. My Jesus will give me what I need to get through each chapter of my life and I am learning to trust that what He gives me is enough. None of this I can do without my God by my side; holding my right hand.

I may not always like my body, I may not be happy with how I look, but God does and He is. God is my home and His home is in me, T said something quite beautiful the other day- our bodies are a temple. My body is not my own. I’ve said it a hundred times and I can not stress it enough: I am beautifully made in God’s image. As T reminded me again upon our first blind weight: I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am learning to love myself.

My heart has felt heavy, weighed down and hurting. The deep pain stems from places in my heart I wish I didn’t know existed. I went to pinch out the buds of my newly growing poppies, there were three and the third was the smallest. As I pinched out that third bud, I held it in my hand and felt a flutter of remorse. That poppy barely stood a few centimetres tall and it’s bud couldn’t have been more than a few millimetres wide, it had a life ahead of it before I stunted it’s growth. It felt brutal and for a moment my mind took me back to when I was only a child. I used to be small, I used to have a life ahead of me that was untarnished and waiting for me; before the brutal hail hit. There’s a song and it’s opening lyrics sing; my heart’s seen things I wish it didn’t, somewhere I lost some of my innocence and I miss it, stay up all night thinking it’s different, my life’s been survival of the fittest but I did it”. Those words resonate with me in a deeper way. I wrote on a previous blog post that life has a habit of dismembering us, breaking us beyond recognition and causing us to feel a deep sense of hopelessness. But within that, the key in this is to hold onto hope in God; even after we’ve lost our naïvety. We are born naïve to the brutality of this world and somewhere along the line we are exposed to that brutality and our hearts begin to dismember. My dismembering began at a young age and over the years I became more and more dismembered. I think it’s precious to go back to the knowledge that God is able to re-member us when we remember Him. When we seek out and pursue God, He holds our broken pieces and re-members them. Blessed are those who cry, who mourn and feel loss, for they will be held by the One who loves them – there is a strange and aching happiness that only the hurting know, for they shall be held. I am breathing and learning how to let the abundance of God in. Yes, the pinching of my poppies buds seemed brutal, it seemed cruel and unfair. But does it not lead to further growth? T and TC both do the same to their poppies each year, by pinching out the buds the poppies are able grow stronger and more resilient. The brutality again leads to growth. In that same way I have to believe that the brutality in my life has lead to growth. Recently T reminded me that everything we experience shapes who we are, that God will use this journey and that it isn’t all for nothing. As distressing as these chapters may be, I will continue to seek out my safety and security in my God. In Him I will find my rest and peace.

Peace. Jesus tells us that He is our peace. I always thought that meant that I could find a sense of peace in Him, and yes, whilst that may be true I am also learning that peace isn’t so much a place or a feeling; it’s a person. Jesus is Peace. We can’t arrive to a place of peace, our hearts can’t travel into a sense of peace. The truth is that peace is a Person that we can abide in, a Person who offers the deepest peace because He is Peace. The broken pieces of my heart find themselves abiding in unison with my Jesus. My Jesus is my Peace.

– c x (19.06.2021)

*I smiled as I wrote the date because the truth be told, I didn’t realise today was the 19th until I looked only moments ago.. the ways in which God works.

a broken freedom .

There’s something beautiful about packing up your broken heart and venturing to sit with it by the riverside, allowing it to break as the heavy rains pour down, over and around you. It poured all day on Sunday and that night I did just that; I took my broken heart out to the riverside, I sat in the pouring rain and allowed the brokenness to simply come. The skies were broken with me and I felt their tears collide with my own. God was with me in the breaking, His love and presence washing over me amidst the stormy weather. I found peace in Him, amidst my brokenness there was a broken joy, a broken freedom and I rose up to dance in the midst of God’s love. As the rain poured, I so vulnerably danced with the Holy Spirit in the presence of God. I’ll never fall out of love with the way God holds us in our brokenness, the way His heart breaks with our own and how gently He loves us through it. Goosebumps covered my skin as I returned to my car, I wrapped my wet body in a blanket and switched on the lights. With the heater going, I reached for my Ann Voskamp book and opened to the next devotion. Now I don’t know if you remember but I still continue with the ‘surprise’ aspect of not knowing what devotion is next and when I turned the page on Sunday night, my heart smiled because I knew God was trying to speak to me; “Koinonia Brokenness”. 

I can still recall how it felt when my heart broke for the first time and how it’s continued to feel, each time it’s broken since. It often begins with a deep pressing inside of me, my lungs begin to burn with an ache so deep that they forget how to draw breath. The process of breaking can sometimes feel so tangible and you’d swear you could feel the cracks turn to crevices, and then into canyons. I’ve been reflecting on brokenness and suffering a lot, over the last week or so especially. On Sunday night, when I began to read Ann’s words, God so beautifully showed me how brokenness and suffering go hand in hand, and how they are held in His wrap-around love. The way through brokenness is to break free from suffering alone; koinonia brokenness; communal brokenness. When we choose to suffer well and to suffer with God, and with those around us, then we allow for the suffering to be shaped into a meaning that transcends our understanding, as well as the suffering itself. Both R and T have at times told me that we would sit with the stuckness, the suffering, for as long as we needed to before we could move on. I realise now that I never once sat alone in my suffering because there was always someone sharing my suffering and that’s exactly what is meant by the phrase “koinonia brokenness”. God created us for community, for relationship with Him and those around us. When our hearts break, God’s own heart breaks. In the bible Jesus spoke of faith, hope and love. He said that the greatest of those is love. If we do not love God, we can not love others – let alone ourselves. Loving like Jesus means to embody the concept of koinonia, that is our sole purpose as God’s children. Ps Shaph actually said the exact same thing in church that morning – “as the body of Christ we need to love like Jesus and share God’s grace with those around us”. Following Jesus and loving like Him, is always worth the suffering. I would happily break daily if I knew that it would glorify God, that it would allow Him to be seen through me and for His love to wash over those around me. 

As the moonlight reflected upon the river on Sunday night, I watched on as the rain sent ripples through the still waters and what Ann had written next in the devotion was so fitting: “There is a river over which every soul must pass to reach the kingdom of heaven, and the name of the river is suffering – and the way to cross that river is a cross nailed together with love”. Jesus died cruciform for us so that we may have eternal life, it is by His love that we are able to walk through seasons of suffering. Ann said that ultimately, all those who love will suffer. If we didn’t love, we would have care or compassion, therefore we would have no reason to suffer or break. God knew that keeping His commandment to ‘love your neighbour’ would also be a means of keeping suffering, yet he commanded us to do so anyway. God knew that suffering would come from Jesus dying on the cross, but through love God allowed Jesus to die anyway. God knew that suffering would inhabit the earth, yet He created it anyway. Love runs through the veins of suffering and the cross, Jesus, is the only way of abundance and the only way through the brokenness. Suffering is at the burning core of everything because love is at the core of everything. As I said earlier and as I’ll continue to say, it is most beautiful that we don’t need to ever suffer alone; God draws nearer to us in our suffering and He breaks with us. The word suffer is derived from Latin, meaning “to bear under”. Ann wrote: Suffering lets the soul see — see the deep suffering around us, see the deep suffering within us, see the suffering Savior who deeply absorbs all suffering, and carries us Home where there is no suffering for evermore. Suffering doesn’t mean you’re cursed, suffering means you’re human. There is no point trying to question suffering, the point is how are you going to answer suffering. The question never is if you understand the why of your suffering — and the answer always is how are you going to stand up and walk through your suffering. You don’t have to know the reason for your suffering — you only have to know your response through the suffering. The suffering isn’t meant to drive you away from God, but it can drive you to the only place in the cosmos that is ultimately safe: His open arms. No suffering can sever us from the tenderness of Jesus who suffers with us. We who have run for our very lives to God, have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go (Hebrews 6:19 MSG). Suffering quietly begs us to surrender what is out of our control unto God, it tells us that we can not bear the burden alone. Ann shares that the only way to bear suffering is through koinonia brokenness; depending on God and on others to help us when we are unable to help ourselves, bearing the vulnerability and intimacy that comes with koinonia and community, allowing others to sit in our broken suffering with us. Suffering calls each of us to bear under for one another, to hold and support each other through the brokenness in the same way the God does for us. Jesus broke the bread and asked us to do so in remembrance of Him; communion, community, koinonia. When we choose to suffer and break alone, we live enslaved and dis-membered. But when we choose to suffer and break in koinonia, we live an abundant life, re-membered in this brokenhearted world. 

I have dwelled on relationship a lot over the last few weeks and I have found God calling me to step out into new depths of vulnerability amidst my brokenness. Growing up, trauma caused me to develop a skewed outlook on relationships. I never understood the importance of relationships until this past year. God’s been teaching me that relationships are actually a huge part of why we were created; whether it’s our relationship with God, or with those around us, with ourselves, and with all aspects of life – yes, even our relationship with food – they’re all important. For years the main relationships I held near was God and Gollum, I felt as if I couldn’t trust the rest so I withdrew and eventually I withdrew from God as well. Relationships became something I feared, they encompassed vulnerability and deep suffering. The people I loved in my life always seemed to break me; both family and friends – even strangers, whether I loved them or not. My safely trapped became a habitual retreat and kept me tucked away from relationships; and now it seems that the more I venture out into being safely held, the more drastically things begin to change. R and I spoke about our relationship the other night and I realised that until meeting her, I had gone through many beautiful friendships but none were like the one I share with her. When I think of T and TC, I have had various beloved ‘mother-like’ women in my life but none like them. R, T and TC all so gently love me the way Jesus loves me, when I am with them I feel close to God and I realise how truely precious relationships are. God has been challenging me to step into new relationships and as I have done so, He has continued to bless me in my brokenness. There is a girl at work, ER, who for months used to scare me. I remember feeling so insecure around her and Gollum turned everything into a competition; she had anorexia and Gollum said that my battle was pathetic compared to hers, she would complain about not being able to gain weight and Gollum would remind me how huge I was, she would express her love for Little J and Gollum would convince me I wasn’t good enough. I became so afraid of her that when God began asking me to pray for her, I couldn’t understand what He was trying to do. After a month or so of God placing her on my heart, I began to pray for her and as time went by, my heart began to soften toward her. Over the weekend before last I wrote about brokenness and what God had been teaching me, four days passed and God prompted me four times to reach out and share with ER but each time I said no because that would be vulnerable. Wednesday came and ER arrived at work in tears, and without her engagement ring of three days. I still felt insecure around ER and didn’t know how to approach her but that night I found myself submitting to God and sharing with her. ER’s broken heart responded to my own and God used me as a means for Him to hold her heart. By the end of the week I found myself sitting across the table with ER, having a chai latte and a chat at one of our local cafes. I experienced what it was to bear under one another in suffering, koinonia. A few weeks ago a lovely woman named H, introduced herself to T and I in church. Since then she has reached out to me many times but out of fear I polity declined any form of relationship; once again, God challenged me to step into a new relationship. I have since bravely done so. H and I first met at a cafe with several other women, then a week later the two of us drove out to the riverside and I shared with her all the trails and back roads for her photography. H partnered with another lovely woman from Oceans Perth, A, and the two of them are desperately trying to rope me into the media team where I can serve at church; another scary and new connection. My favourite coffee shops know my name and order, based solely off the sound of my voice; for years I used to avoid coffee shops and when I went I gave out a name that wasn’t my own. I walked into Yellow Bird the other week and much like the other boutiques, I was greeted by name and praised highly for my photography and presence; I was asked if I would mind having my photos shared on their social media. Although many other boutiques from both New Zealand and around Australia have already shared my photos, for a moment I was quite insecure because of my body but God reminded me once again that I was safe and secure in Him. I scrolled through my instagram just earlier today and surely enough a photo of myself had been posted on Yellow Birds account and to my surprise it didn’t effect me negatively, the way I thought it would. The same goes for my photo being posted on my churches social media. As insignificant as these examples may be, in my heart I think it shows progress in terms of boldly stepping out and connecting with those around me. I won’t lie, the concept of relationships is still one I am learning to grasp but my God has been safely holding me through the process. 

Stemming from relationships, I have learned that even the most precious and grounded relationships, have the ability to crush your heart. In relationships where loving someone seems so easy and effortless, it is all the more important to establish boundaries; not only tangibly, but emotionally as well. Tangible boundaries are fabulous, but I think it’s the emotional boundaries that are most vital. I wrote a letter once that was titled ‘emotional separation’, the idea behind it was that I thought I needed to stop loving and investing so that I wouldn’t find myself heart broken and alone. Oh how God has grown me in understanding since then! I have come to learn that it’s quite the opposite, instead of with holding love and investment, we are called to give more. Broken Givenness. I am learning to set emotional boundaries through prayer. I now often pray that whilst God holds my broken heart, that He will protect my heart and help me to fearlessly love those who hurt me. Often our most precious relationships are the ones that break us the most and I think most the time, the breaking is unintentional. I stood in church on Sunday, broken hearted and alone in tears; I felt abandoned, unsafe and insecure. As the tears swelled in my eyes, I smiled because how many times does God have to remind me that when it comes to relationships – my relationship with Him is the most important and consistent. I asked God to hold my breaking heart, as I searched for my safety and security in Him. I have learned that my human heart can be selfish and deceitful when it breaks and loves; therefore I have learned to pray that my human heart will grow to align with God’s heart, so that when I love, I am able to love with His love rather than my own. I have learned to pray that the boundaries within my relationships would shift to align with God’s, that all those involved will be led by His heart rather their own. The three relationships most dear to my heart are those I have with R, T and my mother. I hold hope that two of those are safe and secure, but I know one is suffering. There’s an unspoken broken that lives within my worldly home and it’s led me to realise that the only home that is true, is my home in God. E shared with me a concept that she discussed with one of her past patients. She said that sometimes when a person finds themselves in safe and warm environments, they feel like they are able to be themselves and they’re surrounded by light. Whereas when that same person goes back into a dark environment where they feel unsafe, they’re often less likely to be themselves. E said it becomes hard when that dark place is their home. I resonated with what E shared because when I walk into R’s home, or T’s office, I feel a great sense of safety and peace. But each night I return back to my home and the darkness within, I find myself trying to shrink and conform. There’s an unspoken broken between my family and I. My relationship with my mother has been growing more and more difficult to navigate and the breaking grows deeper each day. I shared with R and God used her to plant a seed of hope within that hurting relationship. What if I prayed for God to help me establish loving emotional boundaries? What if there was a way to unconditionally love my mother, without my heart being torn to shreds each day? I am still learning how this will look going forward but I know that God will carry me through and will provide me with what I need to suffer well. I am blessed to be able to look at other relationships for examples of what these boundaries may look like. When I consider my relationship with T and the boundaries we hold, I think of the brutal process we ventured through to get to this point and the love she needed to have for me in order to follow through, especially when both our hearts were breaking. It’s different, but also quite the same, when it comes to my mother and I; I am praying that my love for her through Jesus will carry us through the setting of boundaries. We will never be able to change someone, I have seen proof of that in all of my relationships, but we will always be able to love them when we choose to like like Jesus. 

“I’m free”. The very first words I spoke after the breaking on Friday, the twenty-first of May.

I remember one very cold morning earlier last week, I was wrapped up in my heated blanket and my numerous heavy duvets, whilst the storm outside raged. I opened my journal and began spending time with God when He shared the following with me. It had been raining heavily all night and I looked out my bedroom window to see small white bullets of hail landing between my poppy seedlings. My first thought was that life can be a bit like that sometimes.. brutal. There are times where we ourselves are like those poppy seedlings; we are with faith newly planted in rich soil, we are fighting to grow nearer to God, and before we know it we are hit with attacks from the enemy – we are hit with brutal bullets. You see, those poppy seedlings don’t know what is to come, they don’t know if the days ahead will hold sun, wind or rain – growth, challenges or battles. They don’t know whether or not they will survive but they remain planted deep in the rich soil. Their roots draw their strength from that soil and they don’t give up the fight when the brutal hail of life hits them; instead they dig deeper and fight to stand taller. The hail soon melts to water and soaks into the soil, those poppy seedlings are then able to draw from that water which yields further growth. The brutal hail brings forth growth. In that exact same way, we as humans don’t know what the days to come will hold. We never see when the storms will hit us with brutality. We can find ourselves questioning if and how we will survive. But by the grace of our Father we are able to remain planted in faith. We are able to draw our strength from Him. We are able to fight without giving up and when life’s brutality tries to knock us down, we are through faith able to stand taller because we know our God is fighting the battle for us. As the hail turned to water that produced growth, so the brutality of life turns to water that brings forth growth from our broken wounds–when we survive the storms and give the glory to God, we see His provision and our faith in Him grows deeper. T once told me that when her poppies initially begin to grow, she breaks the buds off before they can flower because it brings forth a bigger harvest. I think that picture of growth after brokenness is so precious and plants seeds of hope in our broken hearts. Brutal brokenness brings forth an abundance of growth.

For a while now, God has shown me that over the years I needed to be broken, brutally, before I could be set free. I have often found myself questioning amidst the breaking, but I don’t question anymore. I know that brokenness is one of God’s greatest gifts, by allowing brokenness; we are able to be moulded into God’s hands and feet, we are washed up at the foot of the cross, our need for God is deepened, growth is harvested and we are set free. I have experienced great brokenness in my life and over the last few weeks the brokenness has been tangible, both internally and externally. Within the recent breaking, my heart has never been more safely held. The Friday before last was a day of breaking, it was a day of freedom and an abundance of grace: as a result came a broken freedom. My freedom in Jesus was brought forth by the breaking of Gollum’s chains, the enemies chains, that has held me captive for so many years.

There have been times amidst my recovery where the thought of not knowing my weight, has popped up and been discarded faster than it ever appeared; along with the thought of how much less hindered I would be, how much more wholly I could pursue God, if only I didn’t know my number. It wasn’t until nearly two weeks ago that I really sat with that thought. As I prayed for God to aide me in my pursuit of Him alone, He reminded me of my week with Him in hospital: I didn’t know my number, I was able to wholly pursue Him and I reached a point where I had lost enough weight – my weight didn’t define me there and what I didn’t realise, was that it didn’t define me now either. Since coming home I have fought hard for my recovery, for my freedom against Gollum. I’ve had some stinkin’ good food weeks where my intake has been full and I’ve not been exercising, throwing everything up or even abusing laxatives. The battle however, has only continued to grow harder and the weight gain became very real; I can’t bring myself to reveal numbers but T know’s just how real the gain has become. For a while I tried really hard to break away from the chains that Gollum kept me captive in – I found myself reciting scripture over my body when I didn’t like what I saw, before stepping on the scale I would pray, when I heard Gollum’s voice I would play worship music and speak to Jesus – there is so much more that I did and still continue to do, but my heart kept telling me that complete freedom required breaking. I met with T a while later and it was as if God spoke to me again when she brought up the concept of ‘blind weights’ for my recovery – the one thing I’ve always been terrified of and swore I’d never commit to. It wasn’t the first time we had spoken of blind weights over the past year, but it was first time I sat open to it and with tears in my eyes I told her that God said that same thing to me only a few hours earlier. We decided to step out in faith and do it: blind weights all the way because I made a decision in hospital to pursue God above the weight loss. Tears came and I remember boldly telling T that both her and R would still love me regardless of how I look or what my number says about me, the insecure human in me then shyly looked up at her and muttered the word “right”? T smiled warmly and said yes; nothing would change her love, or R’s love, or God’s love. God has shown me that I don’t need to be the ‘right number’ to ‘earn’ love, I am just loved – we established this in my last post. It was so beautiful to see T again and I left with my heart so in love with Jesus and my soul filled with so much peace – this is how it should feel when I walk away from time with any loved one. I also left T, knowing I wouldn’t again step on a scale to see my number. As I drove away, I deep down sensed that in order to secure my freedom, there needed to be a breaking; more than one. 

I spoke to God that Thursday night and found myself writing on my scale: “For as long as I can remember I’ve been safely trapped in the embrace of Gollum. I’ve spent years chained and weighed down by the weight of expectations. I have ruined this body in a hope to reach the unattainable expectations placed upon me by those in my life, both past and present. “No one will love you if you’re fat”. I have believed the lies spoken about me and over time I attached my entire worth to the number on this scale… But you know what? I am so much more than a number. God created me in His image, I am His and He lives within me. This body I have destroyed is not even my own… it is His beautiful creation. My Jesus is so in love with me, just as I am. I don’t need to work to be ‘good enough’ because Jesus is abundantly enough. I don’t need to earn love because His love is unconditional. In the name of Jesus, I declare myself safely held”. For how long have I been a slave to that number? In my pre-teen years trauma had become a familiar foe and the battle with my worth and number had already begun. For more than a decade since, I have fought tirelessly to reach an unattainable expectation that Gollum held me to.

God has recently opened my eyes and shown me how beautifully, how fearfully and how wonderfully I have been made. In my heart of hearts I believe that I am worth so much more than a two-digit number on a man made machine – I am worth so much more than a category criteria made nearly 200 years ago. My body is God’s body, it’s been made in His image and is He not most beautiful? I drove out to my safe place by the riverside on that Friday morning the week before last and I spoke to my Jesus the whole drive there. Oh I had a smile so contagious and true, not even my deepest insecurities could hold back my joy in Jesus. I spontaneously recorded parts of my morning because it was something so vulnerable and special, I knew I would want to relive it time and time again. As I read out and declared God’s truth over me, the breaking started taking place. 

The first broken freedom came when Jesus took my final few bricks that I’d begun restacking around my heart, as I spoke to Him whilst driving out to the riverside and as I stood in awe of God and what He says about me; the breaking within me began and I was freed from what Gollum says about me. The next to break was the ground, as I smashed the scale downward the earth began to break as my body has been broken; both by forceful hand. The scale began to break next, it didn’t happen all at once as I thought it would. I had to smash the scale many times and each time it broke the ground, a little more of the scale wore away. The breaking of the scale was gradual but with force I threw it to the ground over and over, the way life has thrown me brutally over the years. The scale at last shattered and scattered pieces of broken glass everywhere, I paused in disbelief as I further felt a sense of freedom from my number. The final breaking was the most beautiful breaking; the breaking of chains. As the scale shattered, my Jesus shattered the chains that has held me captive for all these years – a total abundance of freedom. The chains that broke were the lies and labels that took root within me, that ruled over so much of my life; the ones placed there by others since I was a little girl. When the scale at last broke, it was an exact representation of how I eventually shattered and God picked up my scattered brokenness. When I spoke to R later that day, after a billion squeals and hugs, she told me that as she watched the breaking she thought it so beautifully depicted how God gradually took my bricks as I allowed over time; until eventually all at once God broke through and held my heart, scattering pieces of His abundant love everywhere. 

Looking back now, it is more clear than ever that my brokenness led me to freedom. My heart needed to be broken and my hope needed to be broken so that I could be forced to seek out Jesus. The brutal waves needed to break over me, they needed to crush my heart before I could be washed up at the foot of the cross; breathless in the breaking until I could atlas breath in the freedom of Christ. The scale itself, needed to be broken before I could be set free. The chains that kept me safely trapped needed to be broken, so that I could be safely held. Once again, Ann Voskamp put it beautifully: There is no growth without change, no change without surrender, no surrender without wound—no abundance without breaking. Wounds are what break open the soul to plant the seeds of a deeper growth. I used to be so fearful of surrender but I now believe it’s the most vulnerable and raw act of love we can do in our relationship with God. God knows our brokenness and He loves us through it. Brokenness happens so that God’s power can be seen and so that He can be made known. The breaking gave way for an abundance of God’s love and freedom to be poured out over me. If my brokenness can reflect God in even the smallest of ways, then may I remain broken for the rest of my days.

The bible tells us over and over that God is our source of strength; “The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in Him” – Psalm 28:7. The breaking in my life, over the years and over these recent weeks, none of it could have taken place without God. There is no way that I could have broken safely without Him holding me in my brokenness. I look back over the years and I can so clearly see how God has carried me and walked with me. My recovery would not be where it is today without God and His strength that has helped me get through hardships. The me a year ago is so different to the me now. E said the same to T a few weeks ago. The me a year ago never would have broken the scale or agreed to blind weights because the me a year ago had her worth and identity so strongly tied to her number. The me now has been able to boldly break the scale and agree to blind weights because I know that my worth and identity is in God, it is by His strength that I am able to wholeheartedly pursue Him.

What E said to T, really caused me to stop and consider how far we have truely come over the last year. We’ve made “truely remarkable” progress, as T worded it. I told her just the other day that it’s very exciting to see how much can be achieved when our faith and trust is solely in God. When we choose to draw our strength from God’s well, the way those poppies draw their strength from the good soil – literally nothing is impossible (Philippians 4:13). It’s so true though, when you actually pause and look at where we are at, it is so obvious that God is there; you can see pieces of Him in everything. The more I press into God, the more His Holy Spirit inhabits my being and the more I pursue Jesus; the less room there is for Gollum and the more he begins to diminish. I never could imagine a life without Gollum or a life outside of my safely trapped. But my golly, your girl can imagine a life without Gollum, she can imagine a life where she is safely held and so beautifully free. When I think of my life, I think of Jesus and all He has done for me. Eeek my heart is beaming with this relentless joy.

Without God, I well and truely know that I wouldn’t be here today. All the times I shouldn’t have made it, He was there. He continues to be here. When I didn’t want Him there and when I walked away, doubting His presence; He was there through others. The night I sat in the back of my Jeep with R, saying a last goodbye – He was there. On the floor in T’s arms, a wreck after overdosing – He was there. God has literally always been there and He continues to carry me through. Recovering from an eating disorder is hard, no scratch that – it’s freaking hard. There is virtually no way that I would be progressing the way I am if it wasn’t for Jesus. T and I discussed my progress the other week, we spoke about how my team views it from a worldly perspective and I told T that regardless of how others see my progress, I only see it as God; she said there’s no other explanation. And there really isn’t any other explanation; I know my remarkable turnaround wasn’t the kind of ‘snap healing’ we’ve spoken of in the past, but oh how things have drastically changed over the last few months! I have graduated from CMH, this means I no longer need to see a psychiatrist or occupational therapist. I didn’t expect this to happen before next year, yet here we are. It’s daunting to be entirely honest, sometimes I wonder if I’m quite ready but then God just instils within me a peace that only comes from Him. In my final appointment with my psychiatrist, between the giggles about gin and the excitement around my future, she asked me why I now want to get better. My answer? Jesus. My faith. My occupational therapist found herself in tears when I shared with her my decision to pursue psychology and when she too asked me what I thought was the main factor in my recovery; my answer? Undoubtedly, Jesus. My faith. Another huge, and overly exciting, but still huge, and a little bit scary, but mostly incredible, milestone in my recovery was dinner out with R! After literally years of planning and waiting, the two of us ventured out to dinner and afterwards even grabbed a takeaway chai latte before heading to the foreshore for our routine car chat. If that doesn’t just scream God’s glory, then I don’t know what else would!! If you know me, or anyone recovering from Anorexia Nervosa, you can only image how huge this step would be. Eeek I am soo excited though because between all my people, there will be many more outings in the years to come!! On a slightly more deep and fearful note, another form of progress that would never have a chance to take place without Jesus, is the unboxing of my trauma. E and I have reached a point where we are ready to begin healing. Within God I know I am safely held, I am undoubtedly loved and I am secure in Him. Jesus has broken so many chains but I am well aware of the hold my past still has on me. I long for a broken freedom where I am no longer a captive. The weeks to come may feel like one tsunami after the other, but my heart holds hope that each wave will wash me up at the foot of the cross.

 My mother smiled at her phone the other night and when my father asked who she was speaking to, she laughed stating that she was chatting with my uncle.. that uncle. As my mother continued giggling, my mind began spiralling towards my safely trapped and oh how I wished that it ran boldly toward my safely held instead. In my human heart I felt a bitterness grow inside of me; how could my mother be making jokes and engaging with him… after everything? It felt like a betrayal but of course it would be unfair of me to feel that way, after all it has been my choice not to share with her about past events. The “t” word.. E first brought that up a few weeks ago.. it took a while before I could agree that we needed to work through my past sooner or later. As cliche as it sounds, the trauma flashbacks come and go in waves. The waves have felt like tsunamis lately and it’s brought back many undesired memories. The intrusive nightmares around trauma and self harm have become increasingly more frequent and more difficult to cope with. The other night I slept for an hour, woke at midnight and sat up in bed for the rest of the night with the lights on. When learning to sit with the emotions that arise, I have found myself at times returning to coping mechanisms from my past; unhealthy coping mechanisms. Truth be told my eating disorder has suffered for a while, I struggled to keep anything down but God’s strength has carried me through and He will continue to do so. I missed a sermon a few weeks ago, T had said she thought of me through it and encouraged me to go back and listen; the night I sat up in bed until sunrise, I did just that. God’s timing was perfect and He spoke to me through what Ps Shaph had shared. 

The theme we have been working through in church is grace. On that particular Sunday Ps Shaph shared about a time in his life where He felt so undeserving of God’s grace, his voice broke as He told us how ashamed he felt for getting trapped in the cycle of self destruction; saying he will never again do something, then doing it and feeling guilty, doing it more because he feels guilty, then again repeating the cycle. I have been a slave to that cycle for years, especially within my eating disorder. I have felt deep shame and remorse for failing, time and time again, despite my best efforts. I have felt so undeserving of everything as I have fallen down a hopeless spiral. I often have found myself retreating to my safely trapped, engaging in Gollum’s behaviours because that was what was safe and familiar to me. In hindsight my safely trapped only made me feel more guilt and shame which drove me further from God and deeper into the embrace of Gollum. It is solely God’s grace carries us through our suffering and even though we have all fallen short, God still loves us. Divine grace is the undeserved favour of a superior bestowed upon the inferior. Ps Shaph said that it’s not what we do that brings us closer to God, it’s by His grace that we are already near to Him. I can’t tell you how often I have felt the need to ‘earn’ love, forgiveness and grace; from those around me but from God especially. The human in us tends to fall into the trap of thinking that our relationship with God is dependant upon our behaviours and choices, that it depends on what we have to bring to the table. But that’s so not true! Only through faith do we have life in Jesus. It’s not about what we do for God, but what Jesus did for us. My Jesus broke the chains of guilt and shame that stopped me from receiving His Father’s love and grace. God is teaching me that I can never do anything ‘good enough’ to earn His grace. It comes back to what I said in my last post; we don’t need to be ‘good enough’ because Jesus is already abundantly enough. Proverbs 17:4, says that though the righteous fall seven times, they will rise up again. By God’s grace, that’s us. How beautiful to know that though we fall over and over again, we are through God’s strength able to rise up again? The grace of God is our only hope. Ps Shaph spoke about the trembling adoration of beloved children of God. I’ll forever love that phrase; trembling adoration… beloved children. When I think of my Jesus and all He has done for me, trembling adoration most perfectly describes my awe of Him. We are God’s children, His beloved children. How blessed are we? As God’s children, we shouldn’t feel guilty about receiving His grace. God loves us and He freely bestows His grace upon us. 

For weeks now I have been speaking about my pursuit of God. At times I have felt that I was bad and failing, but as T reminded me; “I am pursuing God and He loves me in my brokenness”. Whilst driving to work the other day, God reminded me that as much as I am pursuing Him, He is pursuing me more. As I draw nearer to Him, He draws all the more nearer to me. Wherever I fall short in my pursuit of God, He stands in the gap and continues to fight for me. made a promise to God whilst I was in hospital, during my week alone with Him. I promised to pursue God above all else, a fearless pursuit of Jesus and a deeper relationship with Him. I promised to strive toward pursuing my God whole heartedly for the rest of my days. As a sign of my promise I ordered a ring from one of the local jewellers, would you believe me if I told you that it arrived on the Friday that the breaking took place? How perfect was God’s timing? I am so in love with my Father. I am in love with God. God is in love with me. I am in love with my people. My people are in love with me. But I pause to question who we are in love with? Ultimately the answer is God. I think that when people love me, they also love God who is in me. And when I walked away from God, they loved me because they knew that God still loved me. When I think of the people I love, they so beautifully depict Jesus. I was asked what my favourite colour was and when I said olive green, I was asked why and told to replace each reason with the people I hold dear to me – my people like T and R, remind me of God, they make me feel close to Him and I feel safe when in their presence; in that same way the colour olive green reminds me of God through his creation by the riverside, I feel close to Him and safe there. I see God in my people and it makes me love them even more. I know that I don’t need to earn love or feel guilty for being loved because it’s God in me, that my people love the most. I’ve seen the way R, T and TC all smile at me when I share with them my excitement for what God is doing within me, they love God and they love me; they share my excitement. I am learning to love myself, not for how I look but for how I see God within me and all around me. 

More breaking is due to come, breaking the chains of trauma, nightmares and areas of my past that still hold me captive. As I continue to face a broken freedom, I hold onto what my God says about me. I am so dearly loved. I am beautiful, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, my body belongs to God and is a perfect depiction of His image, those who truely love me will love me for my insides not my outsides, I do not need to be the perfect number to earn love because I am already so deeply loved. There is a full freedom and deep realisation, that the weight on a scale is nothing, absolutely nothing, in comparison to the weight of God’s love for me – and for that, I am eternally grateful.

-c x (01.06.2021)

the lingering in the harvest .

“Just let God love you”

– T (02.07.2020)

Just let God love you. Just let God love me. How? That’s the burning question, isn’t it? How do I just let God love me? It seems so simple, yet the more I repeat that line, the more difficult it seems to be. I returned home at the beginning of this month, a ‘changed woman’ as T named me upon seeing me again for the first time. I smile because it’s the 19th today and it’s also 19 days since the defining moment amidst my journey took place; my week with God that changed everything. 19.. I used to dread that number and all the weight attached to it, but now I smile because God’s given me a new 19 – Isaiah 43:19 , “Behold, I am doing a new thing.. I will make a way”.

As I write this post, I draw from experiences over the last couple of weeks; times where my Jesus was made most known to me – there are so many moments as such. Isn’t it beautiful? The way God inserts Himself into every aspect of our days? The way in which He makes Himself known to us at times where we didn’t know, but we needed Him most?

There was a rainy evening not too long ago, I found myself driving out to the riverside and desperate for Jesus to meet me there. As I drove, I ever so vulnerably poured my heart out to my Father; I told Him everything. I was sobbing and desperately falling at the foot of the cross, pleading for God to show me where He was amidst my aching brokenness. My heart began to wonder if He would show up for me again.. In that exact moment, I remember looking out the right hand side of my car and through my tears and the rain, behind the clouds, behold there was a rainbow. My Promise Keeper was reminding me of His presence and His promise to always be with me, His promise to carry me and safely hold me. I looked down at my right wrist.. Isaiah 41:13“For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you; ‘do not fear, I will help you’”… My God showed up for me, He held me and reminded me of His faithfulness.

Earlier this week I remember laying awake in bed at what some may refer to as an ‘ungodly hour’, but for me it was the most Godly hour because He met me there. I woke part way through the night and as I tossed and turned, I tried desperately to fall back asleep before the day began. I couldn’t shake the feeling of needing to pray, so I did. An hour or so passed and I once again tossed and turned, in hope of gaining a bit more well desired sleep. But you see, sometimes as desperately as we want something, God wants something different: “spend time with Me”. I couldn’t shake those words either and before I knew it, I was (dare I say reluctantly) turning on my bedside light and reaching for one of Ann Voskamp’s books that I’d newly purchased – The Broken Way. My reluctance toward waking up at that so called ‘ungodly hour’ quickly changed, as that time spent with God became the renewing my heart desired more deeply than the renewing that comes from sleep itself. My day began at the foot of the cross, in the early hours of morning. Laying in bed before the crack of dawn, how was I to know that my evening would hold a very different view? What would prepare me for the unnerving turn of events that led me to the familiar hiding place in my room? That caused the old yearning for release to arise from deep within? Leaving me teetering along the edge that I’d run so far from?

There’s are lingerings in the atmosphere. We all experience them. Some lingerings may be strong, some may be faint and some will coincide with others. In my case, there’s lately been lingerings of heaviness and sadness, of longing, despair and suffering. However amidst all those lingerings, if you were to look just that little bit deeper, you would see that there is only one lingering that never ceases to exist. I think back to when I first began this post a week or so ago, I was sitting on the grass with the golden glow of the evening sun shining upon me. Warmth radiated through and around me, I felt close to God there; as I did again in the early hours of dawn. The atmosphere by the riverside was filled with a lingering peace, the lingering of God’s divine love. Contrast to that, the lingerings that evening were lingerings of self destruction, worthlessness and a soul breaking grief. Earlier this week wasn’t the first time in the last few weeks that those lingerings had haunted me, but they were strongest then and despite the renewing my soul received that morning, it was too weary to fight in the evening.

When I think of my God, I think of Him as my shield, my protector and safe place; my home. Then in moments of weariness, I stand to question where He is? Where was He just earlier this week when I lost the battle? But you see, the question isn’t ‘where was God?’ – it’s ‘why wasn’t God there?’, and it’s directed at me. Who am I to question where God was, when I know full well that I was the only thing standing between myself and my Protector? You see, out of every lingering, there is one that I said remains always; the lingering of a divine and unconditional love – a love like no other..

I am right to think of God as my safe place, but in order for me to tangibly feel safe I need to allow Him into my atmosphere. It comes back to the concept of letting God love me. I can not expect God to protect me when I stare hell in the face, not if I’m preventing Him from entering into my atmosphere. Where the devil lingers, God is waiting to be invited in so that His divine love can linger in an overwhelming and all consuming way. Choosing to hone into God above the raging devastation can be as simple as two words; “God, please”. If you can’t muster more than that, then that alone is enough. God is teaching me that when evenings like I’ve experienced over the last few says roll around, I can’t keep my bricks up in hope of them keeping me safely trapped from the undesired lingerings.. I need to once again vulnerably allow God’s lingering to pierce through those bricks and wholly encompass my atmosphere; so that I may be safely held within my brokenness.

I remember reaching a particular point in my journey last year where I was laying on the bathroom floor, convinced without a doubt that I’d never make it out of this alive; as far as I was concerned, there was no God who cared for me and there was no hope for my future; I was as good as gone. And though by the grace of that very same God, I have never again found myself as deep in that position as I was then, I have still found myself some days dabbling with those same lingering thoughts and feelings. These last four or so days especially, have been days as such. At the end of last week I woke and the pressure of all that I’d been holding in a neat box with a bow on top, had exploded and the waves were coming in an abundance of devastation. I remember trying to pull myself out of bed but all I felt was a desperation for the waves to wash me up at the foot of the cross, where I would receive an abundance of love; the lingering of God’s divine and unconditional love. Reaching out to my people, I asked for prayer that God would meet me and safely hold me, that He would carry me for my feet didn’t know how to walk. For hours, up until the moment I parked my car outside of E’s office, I sobbed more heavily than I thought possible. My heart cried out to Jesus when my words failed me, I remember muttering “Please Dear Lord”.. and then the tears came. The lingering presence of God before me, behind me, beside me, all around me and within me; God was with me.

T sent me a text a while ago but her words remain circling through the corners of my being; “I know God loves you in your brokenness”. She knows, without a doubt she knows and has faith that God loves me in my brokenness. If she knows, how can I doubt? Who am I to be ashamed of my brokenness when the Creator of my very being loves me regardless? How many times does God have to remind me that I am safely held? That it’s okay to break because He is holding me and catching every shard in His hands? I’d usually punish myself for not being able to grasp this concept once off, but I am learning that it’s a concept we all lose sight of from time to time – God will never stop reminding us until the day we are reunited with Him. The truth is that over the last few weeks, God has reminded me of His love for me, more times than I can count and in more ways than I can begin to describe. I have intimately known the darkest of times but I think Ann Voskamp put it beautifully when she said that we can see silhouettes of Jesus amidst our brokenness. Jesus was broken, He experienced our brokenness and showed us the way through – the Father. We are wholly loved and safely held in our brokenness. I’m learning to allow the weight of that statement to seep deeply into the crevices and mend the cracks of my broken soul.

I often find myself ashamed of my brokenness, angry at myself for being broken. But as humans we were made in God’s image, and was His heart not made to be broken too? Brokenness brings forth our weakness and creates a container for an abundance of God’s glory. We don’t always speak about our brokenness, sometimes it’s too painful to revisit past traumas, but I’m realising that at times out unspoken broken can speak louder than our words ever could. God knows our brokenness and He loves us through it. Nothing in this world is immune to breaking, Ann’s husband put it beautifully: “the seed breaks to give us the wheat, the soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread and the bread breaks to give us the feast”. Is the gift of life not the most precious gift? God gave us life. Does not a mother’s water and the umbilical cord, both break in the process of giving new life? When ground breaks, is the water not received more fully and in the same way if our hearts break is God’s love not received more wholly? If there is so much beauty in brokenness then why are we so afraid of being broken? Amidst brokenness it is easy to question why, but why is the wrong question to ask. Brokenness isn’t about blame or justification. Brokenness creates a canvas for God’s light. Brokenness happens so that God’s power can be seen. Brokenness happens so that God can be made known. If my brokenness can reflect God in even the smallest of ways, then may I remain broken for the rest of my days.

You know that feeling of warmth that radiates through you when the suns light warms your skin? The hairs on your body stand tall and you feel certain that if you were to close your eyes you would simply fall asleep? Complete and utter peace and tranquility? The warmth I spoke of at the beginning of this post? Yes, well I feel that same warmth when I think about everything God has been doing within my heart..

I recently sat down with T and began sharing with her, she smiled so beautifully as she watched me passionately recalling all of God’s goodness over the week I’d spent alone with Him. I remember boldly making a statement where I acknowledged that it may be hard for her to believe the work God’s doing within me, but I that could assure her she would see the harvest in due time. I stand by that statement, the harvest will come and all those who look, will see the goodness of God. I never can say when the harvest will come in full but I know it has already begun and I have seen proof within small moments where God’s goodness is most prevalent; and if you look closely, I believe you will begin to see them too. You see, I don’t need to wait for the day I am “fully recovered”, or the day I publish my book, or the day I graduate from my degree, or any other day for that matter. The reality is that the day has already come and each day, is that day. Each day that God breathes His life into me, is a day where my life is His own and the harvest is continually sown and reaped. The last few weeks have seen glimpses of the harvest that is to come, moments where I have truely and wholly experienced God in ways I haven’t before, where I have known the fullness of joy and the deep assurance of hope for the life that lays beyond my safely trapped. But as I spoke of earlier, the weeks passed have also seen the familiar threats of an engulfing darkness and a deep pressing upon my heart that’s felt indescribable. May I tell you that it too has been beautiful though? It’s been beautiful because when I have found myself faced by that darkness and when I have felt that deep pressing, in my heart of hearts I have known that I haven’t been alone. Throughout each of the days, there has been that one constant and that constant was my God; He has been there all along and as has the lingering of His divine love.

When I think of a harvest, I think of a setting as on Little House on the Prairie.. the first thing that comes to mind is fields of golden wheat glistening in the evening glow. And yes, that sounds a little too cheesy or poetic for my taste too but for lack of better terms, we’ll go with that. I want to share something with you: About a week ago I planted my very first poppy seedlings and to say I’m thrilled would be an understatement. You see, I’ve been dreaming about growing my own poppies ever since T gave me my first bunch last October. T, TC and I have been chatting about poppies every now and then over the months, and I’ll admit that I’ve asked a lot of questions to ensure I would be prepared, for when the time came to sow and plant my seedlings. From the moment I decided to plant poppies in the new year, time went by and the anticipation grew, until at last the day came where I was able to begin the process of growing my very own poppies. I shared this excitement with TC and she joked that I am now officially part of the “poppy club”. Prior to buying seedlings, I had bought seeds only to find out that neither T nor TC had had much luck with them over the years. With little faith I decided to sprinkle some seeds into damp cotton and sealed them into a ziplock bag. A week or so passed and would you believe that the seeds I’d sown, have since yielded tiny sprouts? The reason I’m sharing about my experiences around growing poppies is because in a sense I think it is able to be related back to our every day lives in more ways than one. Allow me to explain.. So, God created each and every one of us with a plan for our lives in mind, He has dreamed up the most incredible things for us that go far beyond our imaginations and He has carefully ensured that He would be prepared when it came to supplying us with what we need. As humans we also have hopes and dreams of what our future will look like, we plant seeds each time we make a decision that works toward our future and we water those seeds each time we take action. God plants seeds too, each time He speaks to us while we press into Him, or when we hear a word from a friend, or read a devotion that opens the door for God’s voice to pour through. The seeds that God plants within us and around us, are watered when we dwell on what He says to us, when we surround ourselves with likeminded people and when we feed our souls with His word. When we allow ourselves to be mouldable and when we make ourselves available to Him, God is able to use us as His hands and feet, so that He may plant seeds in the lives of others through us. It’s important to bare in mind that whilst planting seeds can produce a harvest of light, there are seeds that the enemy may plant that hold the capacity to produce a harvest of darkness if we lean into them. I have sown and reaped harvests of darkness but as I now continue to surrender unto God, I have faith that a harvest of light will be continually sown and reaped.

I drove out to the riverside just a few nights ago, my soul was weary and in need of time alone with Jesus. I took with me a plant from my room and as I dug up the earth by the river, I gave it a home in the soil. You may think it’s foolish for me to have done so, but in a sense I sowed a piece of myself in the place where I feel so intimately close to God. I prayed over my little plant, and whether it grows or dies, it’s the symbolism behind it that matters to me. The little plant represents my faith, it died for a while and it’s only begun to grow again over the last few months. The riverside has become a large part of my journey, it’s become a tangible place where I go to seek out God and without fail He meets me there each time. It’s tricky to explain but I feel a sense of peace knowing that when I go to the riverside, my home is in Jesus and my plants home is there too.

I sat down with TC last week and we had chai lattes, that she’d especially bought for when I visit her at home. Our cuppa was thought to last perhaps an hour but it surpassed that hour many times before I found myself very late for work. We spoke about this, that and everything between. I found myself sharing with her about how drastically God had been changing my heart. She was moved to tears when I told her of the things He has been doing in my life and how after walking away, I had finally returned home. I shared with her about my pursuit of Jesus and my desire to suffer well, how I long to be God’s hands and feet and how I pray that the life I choose to live, will only ever reflect His glory. I revisited some of the things God has taught me whilst reading Ann Voskamp’s, ‘The Way of Abundance‘ and it came known to me that God planted those seeds many years ago. TC told me that she came to know Ann through my mother who gifted her a book almost an exact decade ago. It wasn’t until years later that TC read that book and God used it to bless her in a time where she needed it most. TC went on to gift T with a book by Ann and as time passed T was also blessed and in turn shared a book by Ann with me. You see, TC showed me that it’s as if years ago God knew that through Ann’s words, He would be able to reach me in ways I didn’t know possible and by planting the seeds all those years ago, He was able to bless others along the way. T has often drawn parallels between Ann and myself, if only one day God may use my testimonies to bless those around me as He has used her’s to bless me. Dare I say, He has already begun? I make that statement boldly because through tears, TC told me how God had blessed her and given her new hope whilst I shared testimonies of His goodness with her over our time together. In just that small space of time God used me as His hands and feet, through my words He renewed her hope and blessed her heart.

I mentioned in the beginning that I’ve begun to read a new book my Ann – The Broken Way. I began reading the book earlier this week and the first page spoke rawly of her battle with self-harm, I didn’t know it at the time but I’d find myself in those same familiar shoes that evening. Ann shared of her suffering and stated that no-one could tell her how to find the place where she always felt safe and secure and held. I remember pausing before underlining that sentence.. I could have written that, I have written similar and I have wondered the same. Prior to finding my safety and security in God and before realising I was safely held by Him, I searched for those three things in all places I could think of. T once asked me where I felt safe, I couldn’t answer her because home wasn’t my safe place and I frankly had no-where else. It’s only by God’s grace that I found my safety and security in Him, that He met me by the riverside and showed me that He holds me in His wraparound lingering love. Jesus always moves into places moved with grief. Ann went on to write that there wasn’t one thing more important in life than figuring out how to live in the face of unspoken pain, to figure out how to hold on and let go, to “learn how to let myself be loved”. I remembered back to how E and I spoke about sitting with the emotions, God sits with me there as I face the unspoken pain, He is teaching me how to hold onto hope whilst letting go and allowing Him to take control. I am learning to let God love me. I found myself in a situation where I was asked to describe the feeling I felt amidst trauma, reliving flashbacks of a brutal past I couldn’t answer aloud but the words that circled my mind were; soul crushing, deep, holding my breath, counting, tearing skin, crushing and pressing. Ann wrote that when we are faced with great grief we often look for a way out of the brokenness that cuts up the earth, sometimes we can physically feel the crush of cried on our brittle ribcage. She says that great grief isn’t made to fit inside out bodies and that’s why our hearts break. I said it in my last post, but we aren’t immune to suffering. If there is anything that we all all guaranteed in life, it’s just that: guaranteed suffering. It is ever so easy to ask God where He is amidst our brokenness but as I spoke of in the beginning of this post, God is always right there. Ann wrote what I deem as the most beautiful line: “And He [God] surfaces in patches of colour, the broken brushstrokes, the silhouettes of Him visible in the chaos”. The hues of the sky remind my of my Jesus, in every way possible I feel closest to Him amidst His creation. The dancing lights upon the gentle river, in every way remind me of Him. The silhouettes of the trees and the finest details, in every way remind me of Him. Blessed are those who cry, who mourn and feel loss, for they will be held by the One who loves them – there is a strange and aching happiness that only the hurting know, for they shall be held. I am breathing and learning how to let the abundance of God in. The harvest is here and it continues to be sown into and reaped from.

my heart feels joy because my Jesus is so good to me .

I think that at the end of the day, it all comes down to what T told me on the psych ward last year; “Just let God love you”. I have spent a lot of time pondering how I am to let God love me. In Latin, the word ‘let‘ translates to ‘sit‘; meaning ‘let it be‘. I suppose when looking at it from that perspective, it to becomes quite simple really: Just sit with it. When it comes to God loving me, there’s nothing I can do to change His love.. I just need to sit with undoubtedly knowing that He loves me. His divine and unconditional love lingers all around me. Whilst E and I spoke that Friday morning, I cried as we established just how strong the internal warfare has been. Yes, the real people food stuff had in fact been going fabulously, but inside I’d been crumbling. Sitting with the emotions, without any past coping mechanisms, has proved to be a lot more difficult than first anticipated. But that’s just it: sitting with it. God has been showing me that the process of sitting, is where His lingering love comes in. When I sit with the hard stuff, I am simultaneously sitting with His lingering love. It sounds a bit silly to write this down, but when I’m struggling in the sitting, I often like to imagine Jesus sitting next to me. And He is there, amidst God’s lingering love my Jesus is sitting with me in the hard stuff – I’ve at times even opened the palm of my right hand [Isaiah 41:13] beside me. When I vulnerably let my bricks go, God’s lingering love is able to pierce through so that God can love me – it’s the moment the evening sun radiates through the wheat fields, everything turns a glowing golden and warmth fills the atmosphere. I am learning each day to just let God love me. He always has, and He always will.

There are lingerings amidst my harvest, there always will be; but the only lingering that matters is that of God’s divine and unconditional love. How blessed are we to be loved by the One who created us? What a privilege to be able to let God love us? Gone are the days where I couldn’t remember the last time I’d meant the smile on my face or laughed a laugh that wasn’t forced; for now even on the hardest days, I am able to smile and laugh with a fullness of joy – found solely in Him. God has not forgotten me, He has not abandoned me because His love is all around me. God loves me in my brokenness – this I know for sure and this I choose to remind myself of each moment of each day.

The harvest will continue to be sown and reaped as time ticks on, my Protector is not done with me yet.

– c x

my God, my home .

When you think of a home what do you think of? Strength and faith? Safety and security? Warmth and love? Rest and comfort? I ask because there was a point amidst the admission just passed where I pondered this very question. I was sitting on my bed, as a wave of hopelessness and desperation came over me like a tsunami. I felt as if all the work God had done in me was coming undone and all I wanted was the feelings and ideations that came with the word ‘home’. I remember rocking myself as I cried out to God, pleading with Him to help me get home, all I wanted was home. Looking back I can see that the Lord met me there and He sat on the bed with me, holding me and comforting me, regardless of whether or not I felt Him there. Once I had calmed down, I reached for and continued to read the book I was amidst. As I turned the pages I stopped and my body physically reacted to the sentence that was written before me; “Disappointment and suffering isn’t proof that God is withholding good things from us. Sometimes it’s His way of leading us home”. “Home”. “Leading us home”. I can’t describe how I felt as I read those words.. the timing was perfect and it opened my eyes to what God was trying to say to me. He is my home. I dedicated the admission to Him and there I was momentarily wallowing and longing to go home, not realising that God was there calling, me home.

I ask that as you continue reading, you approach gently because this is my heart on paper and as I’ve said before: my words are not to impress or convince anyone of anything. My words come from my heart and they do have weight, depth and meaning – they are not void because they work to bring honour and glory to God, they were derived from my time with Him and lessons He has been teaching me. I take none of this lightly and in my heart of hearts believe that this is the turning point in my journey – this post is the moment I will look back on and I will see that all the posts and moments leading to this one has worked to prepare my heart, mind and soul for this next chapter; healing.

(Bare with me, it’s a long one.. but then again, aren’t all the good ones?!)

It’s the season of covid shots and flu vaccines, I’m receiving both and it led me to ponder the concept of immunity. There is often quite the uproar in society when immunisations are addressed, many individuals both for and against them. I pause to question whether or not those who are so strongly opposed, would still feel that way if they were able to dictate what they were immune toward or if they were able to create immunisations to use to their advantage? Are there things in your life that you think you’d be better off without? Perhaps work, getting old, body image battles, bills to pay? Or on a larger scale, are there things that society would be better without? Cancer, chronic illness, war, death? You see, some of those examples are quite bold and unrealistic but I’m sure there are many who would jump at the opportunity to immunise themselves against things as such. I pause again to now consider things that I would love to be rid of; Gollum for one.. I smile, as I recall once again a conversation that T and I have had many times; ‘I can’t snap my fingers and suddenly not have an eating disorder anymore, it just doesn’t work that way’. I won’t lie though, it would be quite handy if I could somehow become immune to the battles I face both past and present; heartbreak, trauma, depression, Anorexia Nervosa. However, if God wanted us to be immune to lifes hardships then would there not be some vast array of immunisations or would the hardships simply not exist? I think it comes down to the fact that when sin entered into the world, so did hardships. There are certain things in life that we just need to experience and walk through, because we can’t possibly be immune to everything. This same concept applies to suffering. 

No-one on earth is immune to suffering but everyone is given the opportunity to suffer well. Since my last blog a week ago, the concept of suffering well has weighed on my heart more heavily. In hindsight it was almost expected that the week following my conscious decision to suffer well, would be filled with more challenges and trials. Friday morning came and I cried through each of my appointments, by the time I reached my last appointment I was facing admission once again. However this time, I also faced the decision as to whether I would simply suffer, or if I would suffer well. As I sat across from my psychiatrist, S, the familiar burning in the pit of my stomach arose. I took a breath and instead of succumbing to the fear and resistance around admission, I surrendered it unto God because since seeing T the day before, I had been praying that the outcome of Friday would work according to God’s plan for me and this was a time where I had to trust that He was in control. I remember feeling a wave of peace and acceptance as I sat across from S, I held hope that this admission was an opportunity to draw nearer to God and to suffer well.

S allowed me to go home to speak with mom and pack my things. She explained to me that though my team was proud of my progress and could acknowledge my efforts, they also knew that Gollum was strong again and they wanted to give me the best chance of fighting; an admission for re-feeding. Fear arose in me as I drove home, uncertain of what I would say to my mother. I prayed on the drive home, I prayed over the situation, the admission ahead and the conversation that was to take place between my mother and I. I soon arrived at home where I simply told my mother that I had been struggling, that I tried to fix things on my own but my body needed extra help. I told her that my team was going to help me and that God was good. I believed every word I said and by God’s grace, my mom received it well. The admission itself was possibly the most positive one I have had, it was scary and challenging but oh my goodness.. it outlined the mass progress we have made and God used my time in hospital to deeply connect with me. The hospital was short staffed everywhere so for the majority of the time, I didn’t have a special.. the me 8 or so months ago would have used every opportunity to engage in Gollum’s behaviours but the me I am in Christ today, didn’t. I reflected particularly upon my long admission and recalled how different things were back then; I would exercise in the bathroom each chance I got, I would hide food, throw up and spit out meals, I would manipulate and dilute snacks, I remember at a stage sneaking syringes to purge via my ngt.. it got worse, however the point isn’t to dwell on how bad things were, but to recognise how hugely things have improved. If I’m honest, I am terrible at noticing my progress because it more often than not feels selfish and vain, but I am learning that the praise belongs to God so I can celebrate without feeling guilty because I am giving Him the glory. Though if you think about it, I really couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without God. It was 5 months to the exact date between my last admission and the one just passed. How crazy is that? 5 months out of hospital.. I remember the time where a week or two seemed to be a stretch. The admission just passed fell over a long weekend which meant I had a lot of time to simply be, I went into the admission with the mindset of dedicating it to God and strengthening my relationship with Him. All I primarily wanted was to learn how to suffer well, but in the end I walked away with so much more. 

You see, everything began as I was packing my bags at home. I reached for a book that I had bought little over a year ago, titled ‘Hope when it hurts’ and it shared the story of two women who had experienced the hardships that come with life. The book included little areas where I could work through and journal what God was sharing with me. I wasn’t sure that was the book I would take with me but as I flicked through I opened to the first page and would you believe me if I told you that the very first sentence read; “To suffer well, you need Jesus”. That right there, was God. In the midst of everything I was feeling as I packed for hospital, God paused and reminded me of His provision. In that moment, as I stood in my room all the feelings of fluster, fear and shame disappeared; it felt as if God was confirming that this admission would be one of growth in Him rather than defeat by Gollum. As the admission began and continued, I each day made the conscious decision to vulnerably surrender to God through prayer and devotion. By His grace, I learned to suffer well.

Suffering is a chance to exalt Jesus – so a life that includes suffering, is a life worth living!

Suffering is inevitable, we already established that it’s not something we are immune to. The book I’m reading described suffering as a dead weight that bears down on our hearts, a pain that puts pressure on our faith and stirs up emotions that we may find hard to confront or push back. Suffering entered the world when sin did, it isn’t something that we choose to go through and it isn’t always our fault. In fact I think you’ll find that we most often can’t control when we suffer, but God is teaching me that we can control how we suffer. To suffer well, we need Jesus and we need the gospel. The gospel shows us that Jesus suffered so that He would be able to comfort us during our present suffering, everything we go through, He has already gone through and when we open God’s word we see that Jesus showed us how to suffer well. When Jesus suffered or faced trials and temptations, He always turned to God and everything He did brought glory to His Father’s name. When we suffer, we face a choice of either suffering with God or without Him. When we choose to suffer without God and to navigate by our own knowledge, suffering quickly becomes something that we need to ‘get through’, it becomes something we try to rush and it becomes a heavy burden. Contrast to this, if we choose to suffer with God then we are able to view suffering as something we can ‘grow through’, we are able to walk at a slower pace and strengthen in our relationship with God. By suffering with God, we learn to suffer well. In the bible Job is an example of someone who suffered well, He faced suffering on end but continued to praise God through it. 

Praising God through my suffering has been a concept I have really battled with, especially when suffering came in the form of trauma. I am learning that even in the deepest suffering, I can praise God. Not necessarily for the suffering itself, but because it causes me to be more dependant and deepens my need for Him. What if instead of questioning God amidst my suffering, I instead took seriously His command to praise Him through every season? I have begun to see the harvest that comes when I shift my mind from dwelling on suffering, toward praising God. I’m reminded of the fast I took part in and have continued to do, the decision to listen to worship music both consciously and subconsciously – the change and impact this has had on my heart, mind and soul is far greater than I anticipated. People always say that you become what you fill yourself with and I am learning that if I fill myself with my suffering then it will consume me, whereas if I fill myself with praise then God’s fruits will inhabit my spirit. I think it’s important to disclaim that praising God amidst our suffering, doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to acknowledge our present hurt. God isn’t telling us to ignore our suffering and ‘toughen up’.. He too acknowledges the pain that comes from our suffering, but through praise He offers us comfort and reassurance that He is in control. Amidst deep suffering we can sometimes question why we are still here, I know I have and I’ve even begged for God to let me die. You know what? In a sense God did let me die.. By God allowing me to suffer, He also allowed me to learn how to die to myself. Remember a while back I touched on the concept of dying to ourselves? God has shown me over this last week or so, that dying to myself is a beautiful process that needs to take place before I can become more like Jesus, it brings me closer to Him. Suffering brings us to the end of ourselves and creates in us a desperation for comfort and peace, it extorts our weakness and makes known our deep need for God.

In a world where strength is glorified, weakness is often looked down upon. Would you believe me if I told you that God celebrates our weakness and that we should too? Being weak doesn’t equate to being bad, it doesn’t make us a failure or less worthy of God’s love. In fact there is value in weakness because it magnifies our need for God. In His word God tells us that His power is made perfect in our weakness and because we are made to bring glory to God’s name, should we not then celebrate our weakness? Everything changes when we see weakness and suffering in the light of the gospel, when we allow our weakness to drive us toward depending on God. I find that I have often tried to depend on others but God has shown me that He is the only one I can truely depend on. When we chose to suffer well and allow God’s strength to reign amidst our weakness, we in turn show the world and assure ourselves that we have a hope beyond our present suffering. 

Jeremiah 29:11, probably one of the most quoted bible verses, reads; ‘“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”’.

Hope beyond my present suffering looks like having faith in God’s plan for me. When we stop to look around us in the thick of our suffering, we can often find ourselves questioning.. Where is God? Why is this happening? How can this be God’s plan for me? Why won’t God take my suffering? T and I have often spoken about snap healing and I admit that I have at times wondered why God hadn’t already just snapped my suffering into thin air? Haven’t I suffered enough? God’s plan can often look really confusing but when it does, I find it helpful to remind myself that I only see things from a small and narrow perspective.. I can’t see the bigger picture and just because God can snap fix all our suffering, it doesn’t mean that He always will. Sometimes instead of removing our suffering, God challenges us to suffer well and He sits in the thick of it with us until we are ready to continue walking through alongside Him. God may not always take our suffering away, but He will always be there and His plan for us is greater than we could ever imagine so who are we to question? In the bible Paul knew that God was able to remove the thorn if He wanted to, but at the same time Paul trusted in the Lord’s greater purpose. Paul knew that God loved him and was for him, knowing this gave him the courage to suffer well and boldly approach God amidst his suffering. If God is powerful enough to change our circumstances and remove our suffering, but doesn’t, it does not mean that He doesn’t love us or care, it means that perhaps He is allowing them to play out for reasons we can not yet see. God promises to love us and lead us, He promises that everything will work together for the good of those who love Him but God never promised us that we would always understand. The cross means that God is for us and it shows how deeply He loves us, even when we feel uncertain. Isaiah 55:8-9 shares that God’s thoughts are not our own, His ways are higher than ours and we can not possibly make sense of what He is doing in our lives. This is where faith comes in.

There are some things that happen, that we will never understand whilst being on earth, but there are also some things that will begin to make more sense as time passes and as we look back and see God’s hand in everything. I look back on areas of my life where I felt God wasn’t there, in particularly last year when I walked away from Him. My heart smiles because I can so clearly see that God was always there and I am beginning to see purpose and reason amidst some of the suffering. Hebrews 11:1 reminds me that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Just because we can’t see or feel God, it doesn’t mean that He is not there. God didn’t intend for us to suffer, He didn’t create us for the sole purpose of suffering but that also doesn’t mean He can’t use our suffering to bring glory to His name. Even though we sin against God every day, His purpose is still never to punish us. God’s heart breaks when our hearts break. I hear T’s words; “His heart aches for you, this is not His plan for you”. It took me a while to understand but I see now that she was right. God yearns to have a relationship with us, He wants us to find our sense of safety and security in Him. I used to fear the act of surrendering and the vulnerability that goes hand in hand, but I’m learning that surrender shouldn’t be something we do out of defeat and hopelessness, it’s something we should do gladly and as an act of faith because its a privilege that brings us closer to Jesus. My suffering has taken me to new depths in my faith and it will only continue to do so each time I press into God rather than Gollum. 

R came to visit me during this recent admission and we discussed the changes that God has been doing within me. It’s so beautiful the way in which we are able to chat safely and share excitedly together.. she speaks about Gollum so casually which I love. Whilst we spoke I told her that often when God reveals new concepts to me, I frequently hear either her own voice or T’s. We giggled and I commented that both her and T must roll their eyes because I’m only now grasping the concepts that they’ve been telling me all along. I consider now how much further along in my journey I would be by now if only I had really heard and understood a long time ago. I can humbly admit that my hindered progress is a direct result of my choice to hide behind fear, time and time again. I’m certainly not down playing or taking away from my fears, they are all very real and entrenched, they’re valid and the effect they have on me is tangible. But they have also morphed into an excuse and a reason used to justify why I haven’t been able to ‘walk the walk’. Over the months recently passed I have gained a multitude of insight, I have grown in my faith and have vulnerably shared that with those nearest to my heart. I have been talking the talk, but I have struggled to walk the walk. I mean, I have walked the easier and less scary walks so far.. but not the big walks. Each time it came to actively and boldly stepping out into recovery, I often retreated or stood still because I was held back by fear. I have engaged in my treating plan to an extent; I don’t lie to my team, I attend appointments, I’m not exercising etc. But I don’t engage whole heartedly; I don’t eat according to my meal plan, I still throw up, I still restrict and use Gollum’s coping mechanisms. When I stop to ask myself why I do those things, it once again comes down to fear; fear of weight gain, fear of losing loved ones. Time and time again God has called me into a state of vulnerability and surrender, He longs for me to come to Him in my suffering but I have so struggled to do that. The struggle to surrender or turn to God once again boils down to pure fear; fear of rejection, judgement, anger, loss. Fear has become such a powerful emotion and it has creeped into all areas of my life; my own insecurities, recovery, relationships, my future, my career, my job and finances etc. Shame can at times feed our fears. I know from experience that my shame around my sufferings, specifically trauma and Gollum, has driven my fear and made me more fearful for people to find out. Fear can become an all consuming battle. 

It’s been said that fear crushes us, bit by bit it crushes our souls and sucks out the peace from our hearts and minds. I believe that as suffering is, so fear is also inevitable to some extent; it’s not something we can immunise ourselves against. In saying this, it is important to acknowledge that though we can’t always avoid fear, we can fight it. God has given us a ‘toolkit’ in His word, He has given us promises and reminders that we can cling on to when fear begins to creep in. You see, the reality is that being a Christian doesn’t automatically exclude us from facing genuine and deep fears, it once again doesn’t make us immune. In 2 Timothy we are told that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self control. Fear isn’t from God, it is directly from the enemy who utilises fear as a means to draw us further away from our Heavenly Father. God gave us a spirit that inhabits power to fight against fear, love to bestow upon those around us and self-control to rise above temptations. I don’t know about you but I could definitely do with a spirit as such; power to fight, love, and self-control to resist Gollum. When searching deeper to find the root cause of my fears, it surpasses my insecurities and comes down to a lack of trust in God. That sounds brutal but it’s true, if we are fearful then we lack trust because if we fully trusted God then we wouldn’t be afraid. To an extent I think that fear equates to our unwillingness to trust that God is in control over every aspect of our lives, and by allowing fear to keep me safely trapped I am in turn choosing not to trust God. I am constantly finding myself reminded that God is good and He will use my suffering for good and to bring glory to His name, I need to trust that. The book that I’m currently reading made two statements around the concept of fear that really stood out to me. The first statement was that, ‘God will equip us and provide us with what we need if our fears do become a reality’; this means for example that if I did gain weight and if T or R did decide to walk away, then God would still be there and He would provide me with what I need in order to make it through that suffering – this changed the way I approach that deep rooted fear. The second statement that stood out, ‘God is our source of strength when our bodies give way, He is our hope when grief crushes us, He is our wisdom when we can not see and He is our rock when our earthly security is shaken’. I at first took this statement quite literally, my battle with Gollum has caused my body to be damaged and challenged in ways that were unintended, yet each time my body gave way and death was around the corner, God was my source of strength and He carried my body through. As I dwelled on the statement God began to reveal to me ways in which He has faithfully been my strength, hope, wisdom and rock. 

1 Peter instructs us to cast our fears and anxieties unto God because He cares for us. God’s hands are big enough to hold what we can not. Each moment of each day we need to make the choice to live by faith instead of fear. This isn’t always the easiest choice to make, especially when fear is deeply rooted and habitual, but in God all things are possible. R and I again spoke about the fact that if we make the wrong choice once, then we can always try again the next time; it doesn’t make us a failure and it doesn’t mean we are doomed here on out. God understands that we are human and Jesus understands our suffering and temptations, if we make the wrong choice then God’s extends us the opportunities to try again and again. That is the beauty of grace. I have been so hindered by fear that it has prevented me from being able to recover. I remember, well over a year ago, T told me that staying safely trapped was much easier than bravely stepping out into some form of recovery. Since then I have bravely taken some steps toward recovery but it’s time to fearlessly and wholly step out of my safely trapped and into a life of recovery led by God. He is there, I just need to surrender unto Him. I don’t feel worthy but as T once said, ‘it doesn’t matter if I think I’m worthy or not because in God’s eyes I am worthy and that’s all that matters’. How can I say that I trust God if each day I live in fear? Last week I told T that I would choose to trust her when she tells me she will not walk away, but what if it’s not her or others that I need to trust, but God instead? There is no room for fear in perfect love, I’ve said it 1000 times but it’s now time to begin living it.

God didn’t create us to do everything on our own, He didn’t intend for us to suffer alone and be independent from Him. He created us to be weak and vulnerable, to seek Him in our suffering and press into His strength so that He may be glorified. In times of suffering, God doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves. In His word God tells us that He will strengthen us when we are weak, He will equip us when we are weary and He will bring beauty from our brokenness. In my last post I said that the concept of breaking is actually so beautiful, and it is; God has continued to remind me that in order to be His hands and His feet, I need to be breakable and mouldable. He reminds me that it is safe to break because I am safely held in His unconditional love. God is always there. I remember while T was praying for me once, she thanked God for always being there and that He’d never been anywhere else than there for me; she has reminded me all throughout my journey that God is always right there but I am now undoubtedly certain of that very fact. With this in mind, I am only human and even though I know that God is there I still struggle to turn to God first. I used to punish myself for that, but through His grace, God reminds me that it is okay to struggle and that Jesus understands my struggles; it’s as T said last week, we will never be perfect and we will make mistakes until the day we die. Suffering well means seeking Jesus first in everything, it means that when we are faced with hardships we turn to God before we turn elsewhere. Philippians 4:6 urges us to submit our fears and anxieties to the Lord through prayer and petition. Suffering well can be as simple as pausing and submitting everything to God. I find that I often don’t know what to say when I am amidst the thick of my suffering, but then I remind myself of what God says in Isaiah 65:24; “Before they call I will answer, while they are still speaking I will hear”.

On Wednesday evening I physically saw first hand the power of God. I was faced with a team that wanted to discharge me but a heart that was amidst a very real battle with tachycardia. As insignificant as this little testimony may sound, it really impacted me. I stepped out of my comfort zone and reached out to a few women for prayer. We began to declare boldly God’s truths over my heart, mind, soul, body and life. Up until then I hadn’t ever been one to ask God for a miracle, I’d never deemed myself worthy or had enough faith to believe that God would follow through. But God challenged that and reminded me that He is the God of miracles, He is the God of the impossible, He is all consuming and more powerful than we could ever comprehend. We bravely stepped out in faith and prayed for a miracle, for miraculous healing over my heart. Believe it or not, my heart rate went from an increase of 22+bpm, down to an increase of 15bpm, then only 9bpm and by the last measurements taken that night before bed, 7bpm. I had been doing everything in my power to heal my heart but at the end of the day God is the most powerful of us all. Up until that night God had spent the previous 5 days restoring me and giving me a new heart spiritually, but that night he restored my physical heart as well. My heart rate measured in with an increase of only 5bpm and I was medically cleared the night before my discharge. You see, God didn’t create me to suffer alone, He is there and He wants me to run to Him in times of need. God has also blessed me with His people around me to whom I can turn to for prayer and support, my heart feels beyond blessed. Over the week God showed me that He is my home. The admission was one of the hardest ones, but I have no doubt that I needed to journey through so that I could come home to Him and learn to suffer well along the way.

I have always been told that before I can recover, I needed to hit rock bottom but today I choose to challenge that. I believe that before I could recover, I needed to find my security in God and I needed to undoubtedly feel safe in Him.

My last post was centred around the concept of safety and security, something I have nearly died searching for. You’re often asked what is at the root of your addiction before you are able to know where to start recovering but I don’t think that can be established with any one answer. The root of my eating disorder may be titled under one roof, but it stems to many areas that each have their own depth and complexities. At the root of my eating disorder is lack of trust in God. From that? Feelings of fear, insecurity, shame, guilt, anxiety, uncertainty, worthlessness. Each of those feelings at the root of my eating disorder, work together to fuel Gollum and keep me safely trapped in the entrenched addiction he has become. I have lacked trust in God. He tells me not to be afraid, yet I have been crippled by fear. My identity is in Him, yet I find myself insecure. God has removed my shame and guilt, yet I am hindered by them. God has a plan for me, yet I am riddled with anxiety and uncertainty. God has made me in His image and He values me, yet I struggle with feelings of worthlessness. I have prayed into finding my sense of safety and security, and last week established that I’d been searching in the wrong places and T confirmed that I needed to find it within my relationship with God. It is still very new, but I believe I have found it. I believe that I am at a point where I feel safe and secure in my relationship with God. There is no doubt in my mind that He is there, that He loves and cares for me, that He will never leave nor forsake me. I whole heartedly believe everything I have written here today and in every other post. I am struggling to find the words to express how solidly and deeply I feel my newfound sense of safety and security in God.. it has already been trialled and tested in ways not thought possible, but it has withstood the storm and through God’s grace it will continue to stand firm. 

Due to this unshakeable sense of safety and security, I no longer need to feel fear. I don’t need to fear recovery because I know that my worth isn’t found within a number, God made my body and He intended for me to take care of it and to nourish it. I don’t need to fear my weight because God’s love is unconditional and not dependant upon whether I gain or lose weight; I can hold onto this and have faith that the love people like T and R have for me also isn’t dependant upon my weight. I don’t need to fear God walking away and because of the security I have in Him, I am also able to not fear that people like T and R will walk away either; as I said earlier though, even if they do one day wake up and decide to walk away then I know without question that God will carry me through that deep pain and He will provide me with what I need. You see, this sense of safety and security I have within God applies to all fears and all areas of my life. It was tested most recently with the admission just passed. I have worked tirelessly to keep my battle with Gollum a secret because the fear of people finding our felt somewhat unbearable.. Would they judge me for my weight? Would they think I’m a faking my battle with Anorexia? Would they think I’m not good enough or that I’m looking for attention? My thoughts often spiral when I think of people finding out, however God challenges each of my thoughts because if I am safe and secure in Him then why do I still fear? Over the first two days I was in hospital, I first bumped into a girl I went to school with who is now a nurse. She of course was surprised to see me and her first question was whether or not I finished uni. Shame coursed through my body and I had to fight back the tears, I remember thinking ‘please God’ and that was enough for God to know that I needed Him to hold me and remind me that I was safe and secure in Him. I next encountered a mother of one of the students I teach at work, but this time instead of being humiliated and afraid, I felt peace because I knew that I was safe and secure in God. One of my larger battles occurred on my first night in hospital, I had just regained consciousness and was feeling emotional and unwell. My boss rang me only to tell me that she told the girls at work that I was in hospital, the pit of my stomach dropped and filled with emotions of fear, anxiety, betrayal, hurt, anger and sadness. Confidentiality went right out the window and my biggest fear around work came true. I had always been clear about not wanting people to find out that I am unwell, my boss had assured her discretion and when I told her bravely that I didn’t think that it was her place to tell anyone.. she spent the remaining 19minutes and 19seconds shouting at me over the phone. She said the most hurtful things about blaming me for being sick and making life hard for her, she placed her anger and blame on me. Instead of taking it on board, I tried to surrender it unto God. It was hard though and I wanted to hang up as the tears started flowing, but I just prayed while she shouted. God reminded me that I am not responsible for how others treat me and the opinions of others have no hold on me. It took a day or two but God carried me and helped me reach a point where I no longer feel unable to go back to work, I have faith that I will be able to return with my head high and a genuine smile on my face because I know that I am safe and secure in God. As the admission went on I happened to cross paths with 3 other people I knew socially and with a tube stuck to the side of my face, it was hard to hide being unwell. The fact that people knew I was sick stopped bothering me after a while, I mean I’m not about to advertise it to the world and I’d like for no more people to know, but simultaneously I am safe and secure in God. I’m learning that my identity is in Him and if we are honest then we would see that we all suffer with something in life, my battle right now just happens to present itself in the form of Gollum. I am safe and secure in God, I don’t need to fear but at least now I know that when I do fear: God will still be there and I can press into Him for that sense of safety and security.

Suffering well looks like pressing into God; surrendering. I used to think that that was something we chose to do once and if we stuffed up then we had ruined it forever. That’s not the case. I have come to learn that sometimes pressing into God and surrendering is a daily choice; sometimes it’s even hourly. Suffering well means humbling ourselves and vulnerably falling at the feet of God, it’s thanking Him for our brokenness because I undoubtedly know that I am am safely held and in Him I am made whole. When we suffer, what do people see? I stop to consider people around me, both Christians and especially non-Christians; What do they see in my suffering? Do they see Jesus? Do they see hope and light? I wrote once that God’s love shines through our broken cracks, into the darkest corners of our soul amidst our deep pain. But what if through our same broken cracks, God’s love could shine out to others around us? Instead of allowing my suffering to defeat me, what if I allowed it to empower me in Christ? Suffering will often keep us from seeing the opportunities that God places around us, opportunities to bestow His love upon others and to share His word.

I think of my work place, on days where the battle against my suffering is greatest I often feel defeated. On those days, how many opportunities did I miss to love on the children I work with? To smile at a struggling parent? To help out a co-worker? How often do I get caught up in my own suffering that I miss opportunities to be God’s hands and feet? I understand that suffering is taxing both physically and emotionally, it can make us feel like we have nothing left to give but God is reminding me that those moments are when I need Him most. 

I think now of my treating team, oh how I would just love to be able to share with them even just a smaller scale of what I share with T and R. However I am painfully aware that they wouldn’t understand the depth of change God has been doing in me. I’ve often though about how I wish I could somehow help them see me for me, without questioning whether or not it is Gollum talking. I have wished that they could truely know where my heart is at and how desperately I want to recover. On Monday night, the night before my MDT and review, God posed forth a question in response to my wishes.. “What do they see when they see you suffer?”. Duh! How did I not think of this earlier?? I’ve been so focused on wishing they could see, without realising that they already can.. it’s just a question of what I am showing them. When I suffer, how do I suffer? What do they hear me say or see me do? Do my actions reflect my heart? If you asked me that last year, the answer would be no; my actions didn’t reflect my heart. But I do think that recently they have. I can’t control what others see, but I can control how I reflect God in my suffering. I can pray that God will open the eyes of my team and that even without having the faith that T and I share, that they will be able to see past my mistakes and into the sincerity of my heart. God grew me in this area over the final days of my admission. I could sense myself falling into a place of fear, uncertainty and loneliness. I remember feeling as if everyone was working against me, including my own body. Times came where I wanted to crawl under the covers and cry, I almost did at one stage but then God asked me what my others would see if they saw me in that moment.. would that display Him or my desire to suffer well? When those moments of despair came, I by God’s grace was able to each time surrender to Him. My heart was encouraged as the admission drew to an end and a great deal of that encouragement came from conversations with the psychiatrist aiding S in my treatment, P. You see, P saw me a great deal last year and saw the worst side of me, I her words she saw only the eating disorder. It was really beautiful to hear her speak highly of me, to hear her express how proud she is of the progress and insight I have made over the last few months. P said that she has finally seen the real me and she was thrilled. I gave that glory straight to God because P wasn’t the only member of my team saying those things. God has come through for me more than I could have asked for and I feel blessed to stand here today in full faith because I know that God is greater than the enemy and He is helping me reflect His image.

Suffering well looks like remaining steadfast in prayer. Throughout the Psalms we see that within David’s suffering, he was drawn to the throne of the only One who could help him. David shows us that suffering well is drawing nearer to God, even when it’s the last thing we want to do. With intense suffering comes the temptation to withdraw, to walk away from God and in doing so we reject Him and His love for us. I fell into that trap last year, I gave up and walked away to suffer on my own. Looking back I wish I could wholly know and believe then, what I do now. When you are suffering and hurting it is easy to grow lazy in your pursuit of God; I have many times felt hopeless, too tired to read God’s word, abandoned and unable to pray etc. But there is no greater time to fight than when we are feeling as such. God has been showing me that the more I dedicate time to Him, the more I soak in His word.. the more I will grow to believe the word, the nearer I will draw to Him and the stronger my faith will become – the admission just passed is a testament to that. David drew near to God in his deep suffering for two reasons; he believed in God’s good plan to save Him, and he trusted in God’s unconditional love for Him. David didn’t fear because he has faith and trust in God. There was a lot of fear and uncertainty amidst the attacks throughout my admission but Jesus helped me remain steadfast in prayer. For the most part I had spent so much time praying that when my team saw me: they would see Jesus, that when they heard me: they would hear Jesus. I wanted the Holy Spirit to inhabit me and I wanted God to tangibly be present throughout each interaction pertaining to me. I remember praying that when people speak of me, that they would speak life and not death, that they would speak healing and not sickness, hope and not defeat. I have become so deeply aware of the sheer power of words. As the admission drew to an end the attacks from the enemy strengthened, but as did the power of God. I began seeing first hand the power of prayer, the power of hope and the power of trust in Jesus. Every atmosphere was flooded with His presence, He was so tangible and so present in every aspect of my day; every meal, every meeting, every observation and every battle or triumph.

When I asked God how to suffer well, His answer was simple: “Draw near to me”. To suffer well I need Him, I need Jesus. My strength is not enough to get me through, I’ve been there and tried that and it pains me to think of where it got me. My favourite mental health liaison nurse, G, came to visit me on Monday night. He was the first nurse from the liaison team to visit me back during my very first admission, since then he has made a conscious effort to pop in and visit me during other admissions. He’s also one of the only male nurses that I felt comfortable around and on the days where I couldn’t speak, he would sit with me and play card games. My face lit up as he walked in and I decided to be totally honest about where I was at and when he asked about my teaching degree, I excitedly shared with him about psychology. He listened with a smile on his face as I told him about all the insight, progress, changes in my mindset, my passion for psychology and everything in between. He had tears in his eyes by the end of it and emphasised how incredible it is for him to see where I am now, in comparison to where I was both in the beginning and at different stages throughout this journey. I’m sharing this moment because it was the moment that really led me to reflect on where I ended up after choosing to walk away from God. I told G that I remember being in a place that was so dark, I couldn’t imagine a future for myself nor did I want one. Yet there I was on Monday night, beaming like a little girl who just received the greatest gift, and I was beyond hopeful for my future; I was excited, I am excited. Why? Because my future is now entrusted in God’s safe hands and I am no longer journeying without Him. I am boldly surrendering to God and submitting my fears to Him through prayer, this is something I no doubt will need to consciously choose to do time and time again.

God is enough. He is finally truely and wholly enough for me. He always has been, but I needed to find my utter sense of safety and security in Him before I could realise it for myself. This is where the life changing moment comes in.. brace yourself because on Sunday, God gave me a thought and this is the thought that I believe was the final piece of the puzzle. It sounds like such a silly thought when I say it out loud or even write it down, but it holds a multitude of layers and depth. I’ve had this thought only two times prior to Sunday but each time I punished myself for having it and I immediately rebuked it. I realise now, looking back on all that God has done (especially over the last few months) I see that I needed my heart, soul and mind to be where it is today before I could sit with this thought. Eeek, okay, I’m so nervous which is so silly but I am so excited over it because it literally changes the dynamics of my journey. Are you ready?

“I have lost enough weight”

25.04.2021

Okay, pause pause pause! Before you start rolling your eyes or laughing or whatever else.. just hear me out, please. I first of all, before I begin justifying myself, want to give God the honour for the fact that the thought even exists. I never imagined myself saying that and believe me when I tell you that Gollum does not like it at all!! So what does that thought mean? How does it change the very dynamics of my journey? Well to begin with, it definitely does not mean I am happy with how I look. It does not mean I love my body. It does not mean I want to gain weight and it does not mean I won’t want to lose weight in the future. But it does mean that for now, I feel that I have reached a point where I have lost enough weight and that weight loss is not a priority. Why now? Easy! In my heart of hearts, I am at a point where my relationship with God and my desire to suffer well and bring honour and glory to His name, all outweighs my desire to lose weight. But what if people I love leave? What if they do! As I said earlier, if the people I love choose to walk away then yes, it will hurt but I have no doubt that God will carry me and provide me with what I need to get through. What if I gain weight? What if I do! Would that really kill me? No! Will it change my worth or value? No! Will it cause distress and uncomfortability? Yes, but it is as R reminded me when my NG feed was increased during admission: ‘It’s ok to recognise that the increase upsets you and it’s ok to recognise that it makes you feel uncomfortable….then the next best thing to do is take that uncomfortable feeling… throw it in Gollum’s face and say “God, I trust you to nourish my body, soul and mind. Please use this increase and my uncomfortable feelings to glorify you as I trust you with my body”’. I would have paraphrased but I honestly couldn’t say it more beautifully and it brings such a smile to my face. What if it’s hard? Heck girl, of course recovery is going to be hard! In fact it’s going to be stinkin’ hard but through God it’s not impossible.. I recall toward the end of my admission I encountered extreme bloating and even though it is common among re-feeding, it was still painful and uncomfortable. Gollum was loudest during the bloat, but God reminded me that it only shows that I am healing, my body is being nourished and that’s all that matters. What does it look like going forward? Well, I want to go ‘all-in’ with my recovery. That sounds soo stereotypical because you always hear people speak about going ‘all-in’, but that’s what I want to do and it’s okay if people judge me for it. I want to take a moment though to outline what my ‘all-in’ looks like because I believe that everyones looks different and that doesn’t make mine any less valid or challenging. Going forward I ultimately want to suffer well. I want to entrust my recovery in God’s hands which means intentionally praying over all my intake, trusting that He will allow the intake to nourish my body rather than harm it. I want to be able to eat proper people food whenever I feel able to and to do so without feeling guilty or counteracting it with Gollum’s behaviours. Additional to that, if I feel unable to eat proper people food, then that’s okay too and I can just have a fortisip and try again next time without punishing myself. My ‘all-in’ recovery is led by God and it isn’t something that hovers expectations and standards over my head, it is a grace filled process that God will carry me though. The thought of having lost enough weight, purely accentuates the very fact that I am solidly and wholly, safe and secure in God. There is no two ways about it, without that sense of safety and security in God, I would forever spend my days unattainably chasing it through weight loss and searching for it where it does not exist. 

The concept of weight gain and it’s potential hinderance on my motivation to recover came up, and do you know what I said? Without even a hint of doubt or hesitation I told everyone that I am not gaining weight: I am healing. I am not getting fat: I am healing. I said that I have intentionally prayed over every single form of intake throughout this admission and in my heart of hearts I truely believe that God has used it to heal my body, to re-nourish me and strengthen me so that I am strong enough to fight. I am not afraid of what is to come because I have no doubt, not even the slightest bit of uncertainty, that no matter what the enemy throws before me, my God will carry me and provide me with what I need to get through. When I see my number I will not be bound by chains as I have been in the past, it will simply be a number and I know that if any distress were to arise, My God would safely hold me. Before leaving the hospital I had already shed tears over my known weight gain but unknown number, I remember picking myself up off the bed, walking into the bathroom and looking at my body in the mirror.. My body. No, not my body: God’s body. My body is simply just a body. But God’s body, is something so much more beautiful and whole. I choose to remind myself that God loves me regardless of my body, that my body is only a vessel He has given me so that He can use me as His hands and feet.. it’s actually His body. T was soo right when she told me that God doesn’t make ugly people, it would be such an insult to call myself ugly. God made me in His image, who am I to hate my body or my hair, or my skin, teeth, face profile.. who am I?

I have never experienced God the way I have over this last week, I have never before felt the way I have over this last week and the revival in my heart, mind and soul is indescribable. I am overrun and inhabited by the Holy Spirit, my every heart beat praises Jesus for the life I have in Him and I know my God calls me His own. I have been fearfully and wonderfully made, I am chosen and loved. My body is just a body and it doesn’t determine my beauty, my weight is just a number and it doesn’t define me anymore. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is what’s on the inside, where my heart is at and my relationship with God. When I asked her last week, T said my insides are okay, and I know that God will only continue to purify and refine me. Gollum has taken so much from me but the God I glorify is the God of restoration, He is the God of healing and life. There is so much life left for me and I am not walking into it alone; God is always with me. I am excited for the future that lays before me, most prominently the day I will spend with R and her family tomorrow, my family.. wedding family photos and lots of cuddles and memories with my little loves A and J. Family days as such are the type of days God has planned for me, days that are good for my heart and that draw me nearer to God. My deepest prayer is that as I continue my journey in the community, that my faith will only strengthen, that my need for God will only deepen, that my awe of Him will only magnify, that my desire to be like Jesus will only grow and that the inhabitance of the Holy Spirit within me will only intensify. I am so hungry for more of what I have received over this last week, not only spiritually but physically (for proper people food) too because my body needs nourishment so that my soul can receive the fruits of the spirit.

God has called me home and He been at work in my heart, in my mind and in my life. I believe that as I grow in Him, He will transform me into who He has created me to be. I believe that He will help me be more like Jesus and that He will use me as His hands and feet. I believe that the trials and sadness will still come, but my Saviour will guide me towards a life where I will suffer well and that He will bring abundance out of my deep pain. I believe that my suffering is not over and when it comes, it will not lead me to hopelessness, but rather to the God of hope. I believe that my God is enough and that I am enough in Him. I have seen my Jesus come through for me and I will see Him do it again and again. I am home in Him and this is where the healing begins.

(I am at this point, a messy pile of overwhelmed gooey mush haha.. God is so good!)

– c x (30.04.2021)

an endeavour .

As I sit down to write this post I reflect upon the last two weeks, they’ve been two incredibly challenging weeks to say the least. My most prevalent emotion lately has been frustration; at myself, at situations I’ve found myself in, at my eating disorder, at my inability to make better choices, at my weakness and at life. I shift my eyes to a page of scribbles, notes I’ve taken over the last fortnight of things that I wanted to write about but very little makes sense to me anymore. You see, the truth is that I have sat down many times to write about what’s been on my heart but the struggle often outweighs the worth. I have so much to share but it’s such an immense battle to make my words work and I often find myself reminded that I my brain is uncomfortably amidst that familiar state of starvation.. I’ve been here before and last time it was months before I was able to eloquently string my thoughts together to create a cohesive reflection of my hearts words. I recall T recently reminding me of the importance of recording my progress, no matter how small and within that I think it’s also important to record the ways in which God has grown me and the things He has been teaching me. One day I will write my books and I’ll look back on this blog and my journals, and as T once said; ‘they will tell my story’.. with this in mind I choose to struggle through the tears and frustration that comes with a starved brain and I will endeavour to finish this post. I feel the need to apologise in advance for the likelihood of this post not being up to standard or making sense, but I’m also not writing to impress anyone; I write only to record and reflect upon God’s goodness and grace within this season.

For a while I’ve been able to gravitate towards a sense of freedom from my safely trapped, to an extent anyway. However I’ve recently felt more deeply trapped than usual and I’ve spent these last two weeks tucked away, safely trapped deep within the strong grasps of Gollum. If I’m honest, I think that a fall was bound to happen.. I’ve been teetering on the edge of admission for consecutive weeks and each week I dance along the fine line of surrendering to either God or Gollum. And though up until today I didn’t think admission was quite a reality yet, I can admit we have come awfully close. Today I realised, probably not to the full extent but certainly more so than I have in the past, that the path towards my safely trapped is nearing me closer toward admission/death. As T said earlier today; “I can’t nearly kill myself one week and then scramble to fix things the next”, she is right. However, without sounding vain, I don’t think I’ve done that terribly to have lasted this long before falling so far and I think I’ve still made a lot of progress. Within myself I know I’ve fought hard; just not quite hard enough but that doesn’t mean I’m not good enough and in reality sometimes my body just needs a little bit of extra help. I’m embarrassed to admit though that it didn’t take much for me to tip right over into the grasps of Gollum, my fragile self. I quickly found myself stuck in a downward spiral of fear, I allowed Gollum to take control because my safely trapped seemed the only sure guarantee for not losing any more loved ones.

There’s a post in my drafts that’s titled “good enough for a hug”. The centralised concept behind it questioned what I needed to do and how I needed to further conform, in order to be good enough for a hug from my mother. That post was drafted over the transition into the new year but I never published it because I was often told that I didn’t need to be ‘good enough’ and in the end I felt that my feelings were invalid. I choose to address this now because lately I have found myself asking that same question; not only in terms of my mother but in terms of other loved ones as well. Without delving deep into the heart wrenching topic of my relationship with my mother, I will simply state that I feel as if I’m losing that desired relationship; though if I were to open my eyes for long enough, I’d see that it was lost longer ago than yesterday. With this dear loss in mind, I am able to somewhat justify my fears around losing anymore loved ones. I have lost many people dear to me over the years, recently more so and I’m not in a position where I can afford to lose more. I am a naturally introverted soul but Gollum has heightened that state of introversy, I now especially find myself withdrawing and minimising my social circles to an extreme extent. The people dearest to me can be counted on one hand and as soon as a relationship as such becomes threatened or feels insecure, my own insecurities, drive me to the worst case scenarios as states of panic and desperation take root.

I experienced this two weeks ago, the day I last saw T. I left our appointment feeling more insecure than I had in a long time, perhaps since our appointments moved to fortnightly and the changes to dynamics were harshly introduced. Over these last two or so months, since recovery became an active pursuit, I’ve gained a lot of insight into relationships; in particularly healthy ones versus unhealthy ones. My relationship with T, dare I say has flourished into a much healthier one than what we’d previously had and there have been glimpses of what a friendship would one day look like. I found myself able to find a sense of security within that relationship and to undoubtedly know that no matter what, she wouldn’t be going anywhere. However maintaining that ability to find security and peace of heart has proved more and more challenging. The diminishing relationship between my mother and I has left an ever-growing sense of insecurity and uncertainty. I’ve found myself more conscious of my vulnerability within relationships and the risks of losing more loved ones. When I left T that day and as the insecurities began to grow, my fragile self was not strong enough to put up a fight; I soon found myself falling quickly down a spiralling hole, unable to grab hold of even the smallest sense of security. The fear of losing her had sunk in and the thought of that, in the thick of my emotions, felt unbearable.

Over the days and weeks to follow, fear began to manifest itself within my thoughts and nightmares. Wherever a seed of doubt or insecurity was planted, fear was there to water it’s growth. As I ruminated upon my vulnerability and the irrational logistics of losing more loved ones, I began to feel more and more unsafe. I, very shamefully, can admit my state of humanity and my downfall came in the form of surrendering to Gollum rather than to God. I have spent these last two weeks ignoring my heart and doing everything my head thought possible to gain back a sense of security and safety. It may come as no surprise for me to say that I didn’t in fact find it that sense of security or safety, in fact I merely found myself worse off than I was to begin with and I am now sitting very stuck with very real consequences. For two weeks I have allowed Gollum to torture me to tears each day, to break me and convince me of only the worst. I stumbled down the all to familiar path of self destruction, dead set on losing weight in order to gain love and living off vitamins and laxatives to ensure success. I battled with my head, every moment of every day and more often than not, I lost. Hurting myself in the forms of sleep deprivation, intake restriction, breaking skin and drawing blood etc. I thought that I would somehow attain that desired sense of security and safety, and that perhaps along the way I’d even gain my mothers approval; if not her hugs, love and relationship.

It wasn’t until I walked out of church on Sunday that I God was able to break through my bricks and reach my heart. The twelve or so days prior to that Sunday morning were torturous and left more damage than anticipated. My emotions and my headspace over these recent weeks have been, as R described, very reminiscent of where they were six months ago; deep, desperate, dark, death and destruction. I think the scariest realisation came when I hit my lowest point throughout this fortnight, the night I drove out to my safe place without any intentions of returning. I won’t speak of my time out there but I will state that in hindsight, God was there and He did safely hold me despite it all. The morning after that particularly difficult night I found myself trying to hold a brave face in front of E, needless to say that for the first time in the year since I began seeing her – I cried from the beginning until the end of our session. The reality of these last two weeks was that nothing any body could say or do, no matter how pure their intentions, could pull me out of the safely trapped I found myself deep within. At least not until last Sunday morning…

You see, God has been strongly challenging my ideations around my sense of security and safety. On Friday, post seeing E, I had made the conscious decision to try and pull myself out of my safely trapped. She had spent our last two sessions reinforcing the blunt fact that no matter what I weigh, no matter what I do, no matter what traumas or things have been done to me, no matter who tries to stand in the way, no matter what my head tells me or how I’m feeling.. T will not walk away and her love and care for me will not change – the same goes for the people dearest to me, the ones I fear losing the most. With this in mind I was faced with a choice between two risks; the risk of believing that the people who love me are telling the truth and in turn choosing to recover, or the risk of losing everyone I love to my eating disorder. I could either trust that people like T, R or E, aren’t lying to me and that I am allowed to recover without losing them as well. Or I could choose to stay safely trapped within Gollum’s grasps and in turn risk losing them by me either eventually dying or them walking away because it’s too painful to helplessly watch me destroy myself. Realising that there was a risk either way, and that admission was an all too real possibility, I decided to try and fight Gollum once again. That Friday was when God first began the process of removing my bricks; again.

I was invited to go to church with C that Saturday night. I hadn’t gone to C’s new church and she’d been asking me for a while. The idea of a new environment induced a bit of anxiety and insecurity but despite that, I reluctantly said yes and I went. The church gathering was small and intimate, very spiritual and not at all what I was used to. I quickly found myself very overwhelmed and feeling increasingly unsafe. There were strangers all around and as unfamiliar men repeatedly invaded my space and asked to pray for me (with good intentions I’m sure), I politely declined and fought back tears; shrinking smaller and smaller away. At a stage I remember digging into my olive green woollen jumper as if the colour itself would bring me that desired sense of security and safety; olive green stands as a tangible reminder of God’s creation at Luke Pen where I feel closest to Him, it reminds me of T and the grounding truth that I am loved and safely held. It was a long three hours before I finally returned home and I remember going to bed telling myself that everything would be okay and I would go to my home church the next morning, that T would be there and that I would be secure and safe. Sunday morning arrived and as I drove to church, my emotions were deep and I was fragile but held hope that things would pan out as expected. I entered the church building with a false hope and was met with a shattering sense of insecurity and unsafeness. I persisted through the strong emotions and made my way to sit down. Carefully choosing a row closer to the front and a seat not too far from the middle, I sat. A man I hadn’t seen before came up to me and looked too much like someone from my past, he spoke to me briefly before leaving and I held my breath the entire time. I sensed panic set in as I began to feel more insecure and unsafe. My hands started to shake as a pair of men came and took the seats beside me, the same seats that T and her family would have sat on. At that point I couldn’t figure out how to take a breath, my brain couldn’t remember how and I was far from okay. I stood and left the building. I don’t know if T ever made it to church but in hindsight, leaving was the best decision I could have made because it allowed for God to take my final bricks.

Security and safety. Those two words occupied my thoughts as I drove from church to my safe place, Luke Pen. I needed to breathe and out of desperation I went to the one place I knew I felt closest to God. For the two weeks I hadn’t had much to do with God because in my heart of hearts, I felt ever so guilty for choosing Gollum over Him. I reached the riverside and as I placed my hands in the water I inhaled the crisp air around me. I sat listening to the birds and God began to challenge my ideations around security and safety. He showed me that I’d been searching in all the wrong places. I allowed Gollum to convince me that if I had no real intake, that if I engaged in his behaviours, that if I destroyed myself then I would somehow attain that desired sense of security and safety in my relationships; no-one I loved would walk away. God questioned why I had been searching for a sense of security and safety amidst other people, or amidst a colour, or behaviours that are ultimately self destructive. I’ve been working so hard to reach this unattainable idea of who I thought I needed to be in order to earn love and relationship, when that’s not the case because the truth is that He loves me as I am and that should be enough. I shouldn’t be working so hard to gain the things God so freely gives.

God has subtly been calling me out into a new journey with Him, one where I will take on the role of being His hands and His feet. I recall last May when T one morning told me that she is Gods hands and His feet, that she could only show me His love. I think that’s such a beautiful concept and she again reminded me of that a few weeks ago. Last Sunday whilst I was riverside instead of at church, I read a devotion in my Ann Voskamp book and surely enough she spoke about being Gods hands and His feet. Imagine being more like Jesus, my name ironically enough means ‘Christ-like’ and in all honesty I’m not doing a very good job at living up to that. All my life I have felt God calling me to use my experiences to help others, to minister into the lives of His children, to show them His love and goodness. Is that what it looks like to be His hands and His feet? For the last 13 or so years I have had my mind set on becoming a teacher and I have been certain that that would be the best way to fulfil God’s calling on my life. However through a longwinded journey, God has challenged that career and after a year of uncertainty I am now stepping into a new journey with Him where I will study psychology. I have been learning that in order to be Gods hands and His feet, I need to be led by Him. I can not close myself off to hearing His voice or stop myself from being open to His plans for me. I have encountered many situations over the years and looking back they so vividly point toward a career in psychology/counselling but I never stopped to consider that because my mind was closed to God’s plan. As I step into this new journey I am consciously giving control over to God, a few years down the track things may change again and T reminded me that that’s okay; at the end of the day as long as God is in control, nothing else matters more.

The concept of breaking is actually quite beautiful and God’s showing me that in order to become more like Jesus and in order to be His hands and His feet, I need to be broken first. I need to be breakable and mouldable, I can’t stay safely trapped in my set ways because then God is unable to shape me into who He has planned for me to be. Ann Voskamp put forth the idea of being broken and given in the small, in moments so small that no-one may applaud. Life isn’t about being noticed by everyone, its about leaving noticeable marks of God’s love everywhere. My heart felt convicted because I often find myself trapped in a cycle of trying to earn love and approval from those around me but that isn’t actually what God’s called me to do. God tells me that I am already loved and that being His hands and His feet means to humble myself and allow my broken self to give small pieces of His love to others. This isn’t a role I am able to fulfil if I’m constantly building unbreakable bricks around my heart and remaining safely trapped within my illness. Eventually my illness will kill me, T once said that death was Gollum’s very aim. How can I expect to step into God’s plan for me if I am no longer here? God has shown me over this last week that when the enemy attacks me, it isn’t my soul that he is after; it’s souls of the generations that will come after me, its the souls of the people God has planned for me to one day encounter and impact. All along I haven’t really cared if I died because I thought it would only really impact me but I was wrong, it would impact so many others as well. I have been broken and I will continue to be broken, but I am also safely held and able to use my brokenness to bring glory to God.

A few weeks ago it was on my heart to acknowledge the little things T has done for me, I wrote her a letter and gave it to her despite my insecurities because it was something that I felt God had placed on my heart. I bring this up only because a few days ago I read another devotion where that exact concept was addressed and it was as if God was reaffirming its importance. Ann Voskamp that “real love is really in the small gestures – the way your hands, your feet, move to speak your heart”. I remember pausing to reflect on the relationships I have with those I love; T, R, Little A & J, TC etc. I think about the way they love me and it’s never the huge elaborate acts of love that stand out to me, it’s the little things; from catching T smiling at me to TC walking me through her garden sharing stories of each plant, from Little J grabbing my cheeks and planting small kisses all over my face to R smiling as she came home to find Little A, J and I running around the yard giggling, from drinking tea on the floor to a warm embrace. God has shown me that His love isn’t in huge and elaborate works, its in the small things that we do with His great love. God’s love is so unconditional and all consuming, He didn’t intend it for just some of His people; He’s intended it for everyone and He calls us all to be His hands and His feet, to be broken and given in sharing His love through the little things we do for others. I read that small acts of intentional love trigger the brains receptor networks for oxytocin which is the soothing hormone of maternal bonding, my starved brain isn’t sure what Voskamp meant when she wrote that but one day when I read back on these entries, perhaps I’ll understand. Until then, I will continue to choose to work towards being God’s hands and His feet.

I had another Sunday arvo coffee date with R recently and it’s so beautiful the way in which God uses her as His hands and feet. She always prays before seeing me and more often than not there will be something that she shares with me, that will be so directly and loudly from God. The most recent revelation being the concept of suffering well. God is teaching me that I can not control my suffering and I can’t snap my fingers and have all this brokenness disappear. I’m learning that I may not be able to control how frequently I break or where I break, but I to some extent can control how I break. R put forth the idea that if I am going to suffer then why not suffer well? Why not allow my suffering to bring glory to God? Why not use my suffering in a way that uplifts God’s name and reflects His goodness? As R shared what was on her heart with me, those two words ‘suffer well’ weighed heavily on my own heart. I wasn’t sure what suffering well looked like but it was clear to me that it was something God wanted me to dabble with. I have since prayed and dwelled on this concept, I have read articles and sought insight into how I can suffer well. At the end of the day I believe that suffering well is something I will continue to learn how to do, I will make mistakes and try again until I am able to suffer well. Within my suffering I will choose to praise God because I know He safely holds me in my brokenness, because I know He will bring forth a harvest of His goodness, I know that He will use me as His hands and His feet and that as the tattoo on my wrist reminds me.. He will hold my right hand and He will never leave me.

Vulnerability is scary. Feeling insecure and unsafe is scary. Risking the loss of loved ones is scary. Choosing to step outside of my safely trapped and into a new season of being safely held is scary. Being God’s hands and His feet is scary. Suffering well is scary. But throughout God’s word He tells us not to fear 365 times. That amounts to once, every day of the year. Not one day goes by where we need to be afraid. Isaiah 41:13 which is written on my right hand says; “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you; ‘Do not fear, I will help you'”. I have spent hours crying out of fear, most recently last night I sat on the bathroom floor crying because I couldn’t figure out how I would face T this morning. But God once again challenged my fear.. Why do I feel the need to fear so deeply when I am safely held in His perfect love. God tells me that I do not need to be afraid. I can praise Him through every trial and every season, I can stand firm in my faith because I am secure in His love, I can be broken and given because I am safe and deeply loved.

God calls me His Beloved and for as long as I can, I will endeavour; to find my sense of security and safety solely in Him, to be His hands and His feet, to be more like Jesus and to suffer well.

– c x {22.04.2021} .

falling in love .

As my relationship with God strengthens, so do the attacks from the enemy. These last few weeks have felt to be getting harder by the day and I have felt as if I’ve been falling deeper into my depression. In saying this I also hold hope that even despite the hardships, perhaps my faith is getting stronger by the day as well. I saw T again on Thursday and she said the most beautiful and encouraging thing to me, she said that she can see that I am ‘actively pursuing God and falling in love with Him’. I remember being so taken back by that statement, especially the concept of falling in love with God. Up until then, it had never occurred to me that falling in love was exactly what I was experiencing.. All the flutters in my stomach and the way my heart beats with excitement when I recall testimonies of God’s goodness and grace. T is so right, I am falling in love with God for the first time and it’s the most beautiful feeling.

I pause to reflect upon my pursuit of God and although it is active, I also often feel as if I am failing in that area. In a state of vulnerability I sometimes find myself succumbing to the temptations of the enemy, where for brief moments I find myself re-stacking bricks around my heart as I begin to doubt and turn away from God. My heart at times begins to harden toward God, especially when I struggle to understand or feel His presence. It’s moments as such where I feel that I’m not doing ‘good enough’ in my pursuit of God. However, the reality is that we live in a fallen world and we aren’t perfect – God understands this and His grace abounds abundantly. Each day I strive to make a conscious choice to seek out God, whether it be in small moments of temptation or large moments of distress. I don’t always succeed, sometimes I return to my safely trapped and the behaviours associated with it, but I still try my best. I’m learning that whether I succeed or not, each time I consciously seek out God, I am actively pursuing Him. Within my active pursuit I can’t help but fall in love with the one who paints the skies with colours of hope and fulfilment, promise and acceptance. God is just soo good to me.

In moments where the world feels dark and scary, it is so natural to long for safety. In a state of brokenness and vulnerability, it is also natural to long for safety. I spoke in my last post about the concept of being ‘safely held’. This has continued to be so prevalent over the week that has past. I saw T last Thursday and we spoke on this concept of safety. The topic of trauma has still been overly present within my thoughts, dreams and society as a whole. I’ve often found myself living in a constant state of fear, longing for safety. Following the distressing session I had with E, T proceeded to question what more could be done to help me through this patch and in response E said that I would know best what it is that I need right now. When I found myself sitting before T she asked me what it was that I needed, especially in times of distress when the trauma is overwhelming. After lots of hesitation and tears, I told her that as selfish as it is I thought that it would be helpful to sometimes have someone who is safe, give me a hug and remind me that I am safe and that I would be okay. Admitting that, broke my heart and she looked and me and agreed before pointing out that there really was no one. That night I drove out to the Kalgan, as I do without fail every night, and I opened my devotion by Ann Voskamp. I want to pause there to say that I’ve made a habit of not looking to see the title of the next devotion each time I finish one because I think the little girl in me wants to hold on to the excitement of not knowing but also trusting that whatever devotion I read next, will be one that God intended for that moment, He hasn’t failed me yet! The devotion I read that night after seeing T was titled ‘unashamed brokenness’ and it so perfectly spoke about the very things that I’ve prominently been battling with. Voskamp described safe places as our very own miracles that hand you comfort in one hand and courage in the other. There are very few places where I truely feel safe but as I take a moment, I consider those places; Riverside by the Kalgan where I feel closest to God, there He meets me and comforts me as I draw courage from Him, and in the company of both T and R where they each gift to me comfort and courage.

We all find ourselves on the battlefield at some stage in our lives and more often than not we are left with a scar, whether emotional or physical, there is evidence that we were in battle. My scars tell the stories of trauma and a deep depression that caused me to lose my will to live. I have grown with my scars but as I’ve grown, I’ve also found myself filled with an ever-growing shame for those very scars. Feelings of shame are statistically evident in most, if not all, those who experience trauma; especially trauma related to sexual assault. I so often feel this weight of shame and guilt for what has happened to me and the way I’ve allowed it to effect me. How comforting is it to know that God says we don’t need to feel ashamed of our scars. Our broken hearts are safely held in God’s abundant love, He smiles upon our scars and calls us brave. My scars are proof of my bravery, I don’t understand or see this yet, but I choose to blindly believe it until I do. Voskamp stated that shame dies when stories are told in safe places and although I’m not ready to share the stories of all my scars, I can attest her philosophy is true. I have shared stories with safe people and I remember feeling weighed down by the shame, then so wholly met with unconditional love. Someone once said ‘Don’t you think that the things people are most ashamed of are the things that can’t help?’. As humans we can’t always help where we break, we don’t always have control over what happens to us or how our hearts respond. I’m still grasping this subject because just this Sunday I found myself weighed down by shame and guilt for my trauma and the way I’ve broken as a result. I think that the shame of our scars can sometimes scar worse than the original scars themselves; here I picture an open wound, it is painful but even though it’s painful we proceed to rub salt into the open wound which only results in more pain – it’s the same concept each time we give ourselves over to feelings of shame. My shame and guilt so often led me to a state of mind where I felt undeserving of life, I felt worthless and lost my will to live. Voskamp proposed the idea that maybe on the days where we want out of our lives, it isn’t so much that we want to die from shame, but rather that we want to hide from shame. I smile here as I recall all the times I’ve longed to be an ostrich with my head in the sand – R would smile here because as it turns out, an ostrich doesn’t actually bury their heads in the sand. Nevertheless, you get the point; sometimes I just want to disappear. I am trying to learn how to love myself with my scars because my scars are part of me, they tell my stories and I have grown because of them. My scars serve now as proof that God carried me through the hardest of chapters and proof that He will carry me through the chapters to come. I can only hope that God will help me accept my scars rather than be ashamed of them, that He would bring beauty and bravery from them.

Shame has a way of making us feel unloveable. Love has been a concept I’ve wrestled with for as long as I remember. Exactly a year ago to date, on the 31st of March 2020, I wrote the following; “People tell me they love me but goodness me, what is love? Love is a label. Love is a label stuck over the top of any given circumstance. From a young age we are taught that if a boy teases us in primary school, it’s because he loves us. That reasoning is what lead me to believe that when the men in the streets, or the men in my life, took advantage of me or hurt me, it was simply because they loved me. They would lean over me to whisper sweet nothings into my ear, expecting that the words “I love you”, would somehow justify what they do. Love is a label stuck over a situation to avoid an apology as if it acts as justification because surely if you love someone then it’s okay to hurt them. Love is a label that justifies you being held up against a brick wall in the dark, being chased down the hallway and locked inside the dark bathroom whilst a silhouette stands over you as you relive the nightmares of your past. Love is a label that overarches each outburst and each moment where a family member felt the need to show his power, physically, sexually and emotionally.. oh believe me when I assure you that they so strong. Love is a label that reminds you that even whilst another family member, who’s 16 years older than you, stands at the end of your bed at 2 in the morning, and even while his girlfriend sleeps in the room next door and while your parents sleep down the hall, that he ‘still loves you’ because he is family and he only wants to show you just ‘how much’ he loves you. Love is a label that strangers use to make everything okay while they force their needs upon you. Love is a label that belittles you. Love is a label that allows for anyone to do anything because it’s love and love supposedly gives you free rein. Love is a label that makes everything okay again. Love is label that holds no depth or meaning. Love is numb and love is void.”

My view on love has since morphed into a deeper understanding. I recalled that excerpt last Friday as I sat in E’s office and she asked for my views on love. I told her that for a long time I stopped believing in love because surely the ‘love’ shown to me in the past, wasn’t love? It’s not since God lead me to meet specifically T and R, that I’ve begun to comprehend what love really is. The song ‘Reckless Love’ comes to mind when I think of God’s unconditional love, it’s the type of love that fights for you when you’re standing on that battlefield, it’s the type of love that relentlessly chases us down and the type of love that never runs out. There’s a line in the song that sings about how even when we make ourselves foreign to God, still His love remains. I’ve forever felt the need to earn love, as if it were something I needed to deserve before receiving. I can’t count the amount of times T has told me that I can’t earn love, I simply need to vulnerably accept it. As our session on Friday continued, E pointed out that I need to love myself first before I could know that I’m loved by others, she isn’t the only one who has told me this. That night when I reached the Kalgan and opened my book to see what devotion God had prepared for me, surely enough the devotion was titled ‘Relentless Love’; unforeseen and once again perfectly fitting. Through the devotion God reminded me that He gives grace and acceptance before break our sin, before I learn to love myself God already loves me and before I learn to let go of my shame He loves me. ‘You never have to overcome your brokenness to claim God’s love, His love has already overcome your brokenness and claimed you’.. How powerful is the weight of that statement? Again on Sunday T declared that she undoubtedly knows that God loves me in my brokenness. I’ve said before that even in our brokenness we are safely held in God’s abundant love, that His light shines through the broken cracks and pierces into the dark. It’s God’s beautiful and relentless love that makes our lives relentlessly beautiful, not any striving to measure up or work to follow any commandments; God’s love can’t be earned, it simply is and that’s a truth I need to grasp. Because of God’s love, we are reassured that there is more grace within Him than there is shame in us. God’s grace is stronger than the weight of our deepest shame. God is continually pouring out an abundance of love, we simply need to receive it – I’m once again reminded of T throwing herself back into her chair whilst I was in hospital, arms outstretched in surrender; ‘just let God love you’.

Love bears all things. The term to ‘bear’ in Greek is ‘stego‘, it literally means roof. Love bears all things the way a rook bears the greatest of storms. Real, unconditional love is a roof that provides shelter; safety. My deepest desire is to be safe, to be loved and held. God is continually outstretching His arms and inviting us to be safely held, stego. God’s heart breaks for us yet He calls us to let His love come forth in abundance, to be vulnerable enough to allow for the brokenhearted love to fill our brokenness.

My heart hurt deeply this morning as I woke from a traumatic night and was faced once again with the reality of my mother’s conditional love. When she found out that I still have an eating disorder and that I’m still battling Gollum, she expressed her deep disappointment and didn’t want to be in my presence this morning. Little did my mother know about the hard night I’d just left behind and how I would have just appreciated a hug. I’d actually made plans to surprise her by taking her out for a coffee before work this morning, as it was our last opportunity to spend time together, before my family goes on holiday and I remain home alone for a week. Despite that, I respected my mother’s wishes and before leaving the house, I made myself a takeaway cup of tea. With a few hours to spare before work was due to begin, I made my way out to my safe place; Luke Pen. My heart yearned to be safely held and riverside was where I felt closest to God, my only prayer was that He would meet me there. The drive out was torture and the tears fell freely as my thoughts bounced between the dark corners of my mind. With the trauma still prevalent, I tried to suppress it but as I did I encountered a wave of questions that provoked a spiralling decline down an endless rabbit hole. All I longed for was to be safely held but I didn’t even feel good enough or worthy of that. I reached the riverside in a state of brokenness and fragility, in need of God and a sense of safety. I consciously focused on my breathing, as I began recalling and putting into place measures I’d learned. Between my emotional response to how my day began and the measures I put in place to prevent further self destruction, I by now probably sound rather pathetic. I apologise.

On Friday E and I brainstormed measures that I could put into place to help remind myself that I am safe in the moments of distress where reliving trauma feels all too real. Once measure was tea. I’ve always been a lover of tea but now every time I think of tea, I think of T’s words; “I fix everything with a cup of tea”. I’ve come to live by those words so when E asked me if I found tea comforting, I without hesitation answered ‘yes’. She suggested that I chose a tea that I don’t often drink and that can singularly be associated with safety, so that it could act as a tangible reminder that I am safe in times of distress. I chose Earl Grey tea. Other measures included intentional breathing, ‘safe place’ imagery, honing in on my surroundings and listening to the birds etc. T also suggested a heavy blanket that provides an element of deep pressure. Hold onto the measure of tea, as I go on to chat about how God has been growing me in relation to the concept of safety.

Ever since God convicted me in terms of my intentions when going to church and where I find my sense of security, it’s become a conscious occurrence for me to pray whilst driving there on a Sunday morning. Along the drive I pray that God would go before me and prepare the way, that He’d help me vulnerably open my heart up to hearing what He has to say to me, that He would help me focus on Him and find my sense of safety and security in Him. I prayed this again last Sunday and as I pulled into the church carpark I felt peace. I’d had a really tough last few days and it felt like since seeing T on Thursday, everything had slowly and then all at once, fallen apart. Yet despite the constant battle with Gollum and attacks from the enemy, and despite my heart being fragile, I was able to walk into church safely held in God’s hands. The service began with worship and during worship the lyrics “lead me in your love to those around me” was sung. God reminded me that at the beginning of 2018 whilst I was at a conference in Perth, I wrote down and prayed those exact lyrics. Not long after that I began to lose my faith and it wasn’t until some 3 years later, on Sunday morning, where I was able to look back and realise that even though I had walked away from God, He still loved me enough to lead me in His relentless love to people like T and R who would love me unconditionally. Such a testimony to God’s faithfulness. The service continued and I’m ashamed to say but it didn’t take long for the enemy to find my fragility and take advantage of my brokenness. Communion came around and I was frozen in fear; the fear of calories and losing love as a result of potential weight gain, the shame for my past and how deeply I am struggling at the moment, the guilt and the doubt within me were all enough to stop me from partaking in communion. T would later in the carpark gently place her hand on my back and remind me that if we believe in God, if we love Him and have a relationship with Him, then we take communion to remember His goodness. Her words came from a place of love but caused a piercing conviction within me; guilt because I knew she was right.

As the preaching in church on Sunday began, so did my anxiety. I quickly began to feel unsafe and overwhelmed as the topic of trauma was addressed throughout the sermon. Mid way I actually packed up my things and was ready to march right on out of the building because I didn’t think I could bare another moment, and honestly, if T wasn’t sitting beside me then I most likely would have done just that. However with clenched teeth I remained in my chair, trying to listen to what our pastor was sharing. I found myself spiralling deeper and deeper down the path leading towards my safely trapped. Trauma replayed in my mind like a broken record. Gollum’s voice was louder than God’s and I felt myself losing touch. As I heard bits of the sermon I began to build more bricks around my heart as the questions arose.. What did I do to deserve the trauma? What seeds did I sow? Am I immature because I struggle to let go of the trauma that haunts me? Should I just put my past back in the box and throw away the key? Why am I not good enough? Where on earth is God? An ever-growing desire for safety grew within me and I knew that if I were to walk out of church, I wouldn’t have been in a frame of mind to keep myself safe alone; I chose to remain next to someone safe. I’m grateful that I stayed because looking back on that morning, God was still there and He used T in a tangible capacity that allowed for Him to speak to me through her.

As we left the building T asked me if I was okay, fighting the lump in my throat I couldn’t speak so I shook my head. She walked me to my car and as I fought back the tears she tried to undo most of what was said in the sermon because even though the sermon may have held a good message for most, it wasn’t one I was ready to receive and this she knew. I must have sounded so pathetic but I couldn’t find the words and I recall blurting out to T that my heart felt a little bit hardened, instead of meeting me with a lecture on how wrong and sinful that was of me, she softly told me that it was okay as long as I remembered that God’s heart doesn’t harden and that He was still there. I struggle to understand how God’s love and His feelings toward us, remains unwavering. Even when I lose faith or lose sight of God, when I make mistakes and re-stack my bricks; God still calls me His own and He loves me all the same. This concept I can’t even grasp on a tangible level, take my relationship with T for example. Last week she again told me that whether I gain or lose weight, it won’t change the way she sees me. She has told me that no matter what I say or do, she is there for me. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, whether it’s unconditional love that comes from God, or T, or R; I just don’t understand. All my life I’ve felt as if I have to earn love and somehow deserve it, yet I am met with a deep unconditional love. No matter what, God still loves me and He is always there – this will never change.

T and I spoke some more before parting ways and as I reached my car, the built up tears began to flow and by the time I was half way down the road, I found myself pulling over into the carpark at work because I was too distressed to drive. I sat there in my car and I cried out to God. I asked Him all my questions and I asked Him to meet me there. I in all honesty didn’t want to turn to God but as T and I concluded on Thursday; there really was no-one else. So in a state of total desperation, I found myself begging to be safely held by God. At that same moment my phone lit up with a reminder that “God loves me in my brokenness and only He knows where I am at in my journey, that He would be the one to understand, that I am precious and I have been fearfully and wonderfully made”. The people in this world, no matter who they are, may not all understand the complexity of my battles such as the trauma. They may not always grasp the magnitude or impact it has had on me, or anyone else for that matter. I’ve often pondered this when I have drafted and thought about how I’d one day write my books. I’ll admit that an aspect of fear often creeps in when I realise that anyone who reads my book and who hasn’t walked this journey with me, will never truely know the depth of it – what if they judge me or think I’m pathetic or making it all up? But then God reminds me that they don’t need to know, nobody needs to understand because in all honesty, no one ever can fully understand unless they’ve walked in my shoes. Yes, some people who have been closest to me will obviously have a much deeper understanding but not even they will understand entirely. However just because people don’t understand, it doesn’t mean that God can’t use them or use my story to change hearts and lives. People may come along and tell me that I’m healing in the wrong way, or I’m coping in the wrong way but their judgements aren’t always sound because how are they to know my internal battle if their opinions are based only on outward appearance or studies they’ve partaken in? At the end of the day, God knows everything and He understands – that is enough.

As I began to make my way home, I found myself reciting the words to a song I hadn’t listened to in what felt like a decade – “when my heart is overwhelmed and I can not hear your voice, I hold onto what is true though I can not see.. I will believe, I remind myself of all that you’ve done.. love came down and rescued me, love came down and set me free, I am yours”.. Sitting in my car, yes, my heart was overwhelmed and I couldn’t hear God above the trauma and the voices, but I was able to hold on to what I knew was true. I was safely held in my brokenness.

I repeated those lyrics until I arrived home where I found myself alone, I made myself a cup of Earl Grey tea and drove down to the foreshore where I just cried and spent time being safely held by God. I prayed before opening my book by Ann Voskamp and I asked that God would help me open my heart up to hearing His voice because I didn’t want my heart to harden towards Him, I was so desperate for His love and sense of security. Every part of my being smiled when I opened to unexpectedly see the words ‘Abundantly Safe’ and ‘Earl Grey’ typed on the page. How incredible is our God? I am so in awe of all the ways He works to remind me of His goodness. Three questions were asked in the opening of the devotion; 1. When I am lost, who will come and find me?, 2. When I forget who I am, who will come and remind me?, and 3. When life tries to break me, who will come and remake me?. Question one is answered in the song ‘Reckless Love’, when we are lost God leaves the 99 to find us. Question two, this one was answered by the song that was softly playing in my car as I was reading.. “I am Yours”. Question three, when the world has a habit of breaking us and wrecking our souls, God is there holding us in our brokenness as He pieces us back together in His love. Voskamp went on to recall an afternoon she spent drinking Earl Grey tea with a dear friend. Her friend asked her how she was doing and to that question, Voskamp replied that she was doing fine. Her friend looked to and replied; “It’s never fine to say you’re just fine. Real friendship says, you have a safe place at the table to lay your whole heart down”. I smiled because similarly I have been in the company of both R and T where I have boldly told them I was ‘fine’, only to be met with a sense of love and safety in being reassured that I could be honest. T often reminds me that she would rather have me speak from my heart, that as long as I am with her there is nothing I’m not allowed to vulnerably say. Voskamp stated that truely safe people let you come with your truest self and they truely accept you as such. I often think about how God knows the deepest parts of us, He knows us wholly and sees every scar, yet He still loves and accepts us. I truely believe that God shows us His love and acceptance through other people, such as R and T. It can be such a scary concept to let people in, to allow them to safely hold you’re heart but as Christians that’s exactly what God calls us to do. His greatest commandment is to love. Loving someone means being their stego – their safe place. Once again the word stego means to be a safe place when someone feels like they have no place else to go. Love bears all things because love is stego, love is a roof making a safe place. I am so blessed to have my heart held, to be loved amidst my brokenness. I am blessed to have stego.

Sunday evening I once again found myself riverside by the Kalgan. With the warmth from the setting sun on my skin, I closed my eyes and spoke to God. The birds sang sweetly their praises to Him, the world was still and I was safely held. My heart still ached but I was filled with a sense of peace and I knew then that I was going to be okay. I went on to have my dinner fortisip with God before taking time to do communion. The elements were still in my bag from church and although I wasn’t in fellowship with others, I still took them in remembrance of Him. I stayed riverside for a while longer than usual and as I later drove home in the dark, the fullest of moons filled the night sky; in the darkness of my struggles God is the full moon that provides light. God’s light pierces through the cracks of our brokenness as he safely holds us in His abundant love. The last two to three weeks have been so much harder than anticipated, but God has still been so present and so faithful. Having the insight to talk is one thing, but having the courage to walk is another. My head and my heart need to align and I’m working towards that. However until such a time, I’m concluding this post with the truths that T reminded me of on Sunday, truths that I choose to believe and will continue to remind myself of throughout each day..

I choose to believe that I am pursuing God. I am falling in love with God. I am so loved by Him even in my brokenness. I am precious. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

-c x {31.03.2021}.

safe .

Trapped; to be kept captive, deceitfully restrained in an inescapable enclosure.

Held; to be securely carried, gracefully supported in a breathable embrace.

As women’s international day took place over this last week, it seems to have since partnered with sexual assault awareness month and spurred on a movement around the topic of trauma. The ‘t’ word is everywhere right now; my social media for one is flooded with confronting statistics and stories of sexual assault. I don’t want to invalidate the stories of others because I can acknowledge that everyone deserves to have their voices heard and I know that many of the women out there are simply trying to raise awareness to topics that more often than not get dismissed as ‘taboo’. As someone who is part of that 97%, I’m really just not in a place where I feel strong enough to acknowledge my past, let alone stand alongside all these women. Heck, I can’t even name the words out loud without revisiting those past places and falling in a heap. Trauma as been at the forefront of everything, not just my social media but my thoughts, my dreams, my emotions. Following the unsettling encounter I had just shy of two weeks ago with a strange man, I’ve been so fragile and have struggled so deeply. I’ve distanced myself from the world lately because I really just don’t feel safe. I am constantly having flashbacks, feeling hands and pressure all over my body, hearing voices and reliving scenes that I’ve worked so hard to forget. On Friday I found myself in tears panicking, unable to breath and fighting to not once again become trapped in past places. E at the time, was sitting in front of me and I remember feeling so ashamed as I tried to hold myself together. We had been speaking broadly about the week that had past and when the mere topic of trauma came to the surface; she addressed a wedding I’m due to attend, my heart began to race because we both knew who would be at that wedding. E reaffirmed that I was safe and that neither herself, nor T, would ever under any circumstances allow for me to go. I lost sense of what more was said as my mind took me to places I didn’t want to go. I tried so hard to fight and to hold onto God instead but amidst things like trauma, I just really don’t know where God is and struggle so much to sense His presence. Sitting inside E’s office, all I wanted was to feel safe and secure. I yearned for my safely trapped and Gollum was screaming lists of behaviours that would lead me there. I left E’s office and tried to compose myself but fell apart as soon as I reached my car. The rest of the day was harder than anticipated and in a moment of weakness I hurt myself that night. As I was further retreating back into my ‘safely trapped’, almost all too tangibly; God invited me to be ‘safely held’ instead – I’ll pause there before returning to that concept.

You see, all my life I’ve confined myself to living safely trapped for as long as I can remember because since I was a little girl, I’ve had an ever-growing, deep-rooted desire to feel safe and secure. I’ve suppressed trauma and I’ve hidden away from it. I’ve fought for a sense of security and as soon as anything ‘too hard’ to face arose, I’d habitually lean into Gollum and run back into the shelter of my safely trapped. But what happens when God calls us to vulnerably step out into His abundant love, to be safely held by Him? I’m beginning to realise that retreating into my ‘safely trapped’ is in all honesty, soo unhealthy. My safely trapped is a place driven by self destruction and it goes against God’s plan for me; T recently reminded me that God doesn’t approve of my behaviours in relation to Gollum and she is right. In knowing this, I also know that at the same time those behaviours are so very habitual. E explained to me that there are various neural pathways in our brains and the ones we use most often, are the ones that strengthen and become second nature. In my case, the neural pathways that lead me to being safely trapped are so strongly wired; the decision to retreat is engrained and the behaviours are deeply entrenched. I’ve spent years, especially these most recent years, being safely trapped and engaging in the temptations that Gollum lays before me. Why? Because that is what I knew as safe. When trauma becomes most evident and tangible, the only desire my heart has is to feel safe. I mean wouldn’t we all want to feel safe? I couldn’t rely on others to keep me safe as a child, I couldn’t find God and I wasn’t strong enough to keep myself safe. As I’ve gotten older I withdrew from those around me, I lost sight of God and I learned how to keep myself safe; safely trapped. The temptations within my ‘safely trapped’ promise me that sense of security and safety that I’ve desired my whole life. Gollum promises me that safety and out of desperation I often find myself falling back on behaviours that take away from, cancel out and help suppress the trauma; self harm, suicidal tendencies, eating disorder behaviours etc. My ‘safely trapped’ is filled with unhealthy coping mechanisms and for so long it’s been a lonely place but slowly, as seen on Friday night, God is beginning to infiltrate that space. His light is seeping through the cracks of my brokenness.

A few days ago I’d gotten up early to begin my day with God and I wrote the following sentence in my journal; “I feel a sense of brokenness that shatters the deepest parts of me, I search for peace because I know that within that brokenness I am safely held and wrapped within God’s abundant love; even when I struggle to feel it”. I must have said things along that line a hundred times over the last few weeks, I’ve tried to affirm it each time I’ve felt broken. However it wasn’t until that morning that those two words, ‘safely held’, just weighed so heavily on my heart. And then it clicked.. how beautiful is that concept? How vivid is the contrast between being safely held or safely trapped? If only we could realise how abundantly, how wholly, how deeply and how unconditionally God loves us – though in all honesty I don’t think we will ever truely be able to fathom His love for us. My heart has been in a state of conviction since God first laid forth the concept of being safely held. In each moment of temptation to retreat back into my safely trapped, God is there inviting me to be safely held instead. I look down at the verse tattooed on my wrist; Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you; ‘Do not fear, I will help you’.” Each time I begin to retreat into my safely trapped, when I am fearful and seeking that sense of security, I look to the verse on my wrist and I am reminded that God is there holding my right hand. Why do I live in a constant state of fear that drives me back to my safely trapped, when I know that I don’t need to fear? As I spoke about in my last post a month ago; there is no room for fear in love. I was speaking to E about love on Friday and I told her that for so long I stopped believing in love. It wasn’t until meeting T and R that I have since begun to learn what love looks like; deep love, unconditional love, God’s love. The ‘love’ that past men used to label and justify their behaviours by, that wasn’t love and I know that now. I also know now that I am loved. I may not always feel deserving of the love shown to me, but that doesn’t stop others from loving me regardless of how I feel. And because I am loved I know that I shouldn’t be entertaining my fears, yet each day I find myself crippled by them. There are two types of fears, healthy and unhealthy. The unhealthy fears are the ones that tempt us towards being safely trapped, there isn’t room for those fears amidst God’s perfect love. I have many of those unhealthy fears that rule many of my behaviours. Trauma is my biggest fear because from that stems so many deep rooted fears.

I think that my fears of abandonment and losing love are my two deepest fears. Throughout the trauma I was alone, I wasn’t safe, I didn’t feel secure and no one fought for me. Gollum has worked hard over time to convince me that he won’t leave, that I’m safe with him, that I am secure in my safely trapped and that he would fight for me. The trauma left me feeling lonely in a world full of people and I now live in a constant fear of abandonment. I weigh my every decisions to question whether or not they would cause someone to abandon me, or stop loving me. On Friday I told E that it had been 13 days since I’d last exercised and instead of being proud of myself, I was so fearful of T finding out. It would be nearly 3 weeks since I’d last exercised by the time I saw T again. I feared that she would think that I’m just overweight and lazy and that as a result she would walk away. This same fear arises when my weight begins to fluctuate because all my life I’ve associated weight gain with loss of love. Gollum has tried hard to convince me that I needed to run again in order to earn back T’s love and to ensure that I wouldn’t lose her – irrational, right? This concept applies for all the relationships I hold dear to my heart. I suppose most of my fears are unhealthy and when I take a step back and view them from a logical perspective I can see that they’re irrational. However, knowing that my fears are irrational, doesn’t make them any less real or deep. The trauma comes in waves, some bigger and more damaging than others. I’ve always hated water, the concept of diving and even just swimming has frightened me since I was a child. I have flashbacks of being held under the water by a scary man and since then I haven’t felt safe near the sea. It goes without saying that when waves of trauma come; I immediately seek out my safely trapped. A wave hit me again the other night as I was driving along the dirt roads out by Luke Pen, my safe place. My body tensed behind the wheel, my heart was racing and my mind was screeching loudly. Gollum tried to convince me that if I veered my car off the road, the trauma would be gone and I would be gone; his temptation promised peace and freedom; deliverance. This is just one example of how my fears tempt me back towards my safely trapped. I instead pulled over and sat by the riverside. I put my hands in the cold water and took note of the things around me; the birds singing, the fish jumping, the water glistening. When my mind was calm I began to pray, I didn’t know what to say but Isaiah 65:11 reminds me that God already knows and it’s okay to not always have the words. The riverside is where I undoubtedly feel closest to God. I found myself reading another devotion by Ann Voskamp. I so love how when I open myself up to hearing what God wants to say to me, He without fail speaks to me each time. I can not put into words how tangible and clear His voice becomes when I spend time in His presence; that night particularly. You see, the devotion I read followed on so perfectly from what Friday had held just the day before.

Re: temptation; something we’ve all found ourselves encountering beyond measure. If we’re honest, we’ve all been promised an abundance of happiness and freedom if we only give into that temptation. It’s a daily thing, that choice between giving into temptation or resisting; sometimes it’s even hourly. Everyone is tempted in different ways and everyone’s temptations stem from their places of vulnerability. In my case the temptations play on my deepest desires and fears that stem from trauma. They can be as small as tipping out my fortisip in a hope to lose weight so that I can earn love, to as big as driving off the road or buying a packet of cigarettes to punish myself for not being good enough; those temptations and every one in between are all very tangible and consuming. Our temptations play on our vulnerability, they tug at our hearts fears and promise deliverance; But what they don’t tell us is that they in turn also gut our lives, they bring destruction. I know from experience that when I fear losing love, Gollum convinces me that I need to do as much as I can to earn it back; lose more weight, run an extra 10km, skip more meals, do acts of service etc. The temptations come when he tells me that by engaging in those behaviours, I will conform and then the people I love, will love me in return. I know that when I am deep in my depression, Gollum feeds off of those emotions and says unrepeatable things that convince me the only freedom I will find is through hurting myself or ending my life; more temptations. Voskamp laid forth the concept of temptation offering only two choices, two paths for two types of pain; there is either the pain of self-denial, or the pain of self-destruction. The pain of self-destruction is the easier choice, it’s the path that Gollum has convinced me I deserve, it’s the path I’ve been down time and time again and it’s the path that leads me right back to my ‘safely trapped’. Whereas the pain of self-denial is harder to choose because it requires you to fight and resist the temptations that lay before you, it asks you to go against choices that in my case have become habitual. But what if the pain of self-denial takes you down a path that leads you towards a place where you are ‘safely held’? What if the desires of your heart are met by One who is greater than your fears or the temptations that lay before you?

There’s a sense of freedom that you gain when you step into God’s abundant love because it’s there that you realise that you no longer need to fear and you know that when temptations arise, you are already safely held. Choosing to step into God’s abundant love may be a choice that you need to make time and time again, as is the choice to self-deny. As Christians I think it’s quite common for us to drift away from God’s abundant love, reasons for doing so will vary among us but in my case I often drift because I feel undeserving. T has tried to explain to me countless of times that I don’t need to deserve love or work hard to earn it; I simply need to accept it and allow God and allow others to love me. I’m trying hard to learn this because it’s concept is so foreign in to me and what I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. The beauty of God’s unconditional love is that it’s always there, God is always waiting to meet us with open arms and wrap us in abundance. God’s love lasts an eternity; whereas the life we live on earth and the false sense of security brought to me by my safely trapped, are both only temporary. God is forever, Gollum is not. I’m learning that each temptation can either lead me back to my safely trapped, or can drive me towards being safely held. When standing at the crossroads I am faced with choosing between two paths, answering two questions. Do I want to choose to follow my hearts own desires down the habitual path towards my safely trapped? Or do I want to choose to follow God down the path towards being safely held?

It takes courage to make the right choice. It takes courage to self-deny and fight against the temptations that are laid before you, to follow God down the path towards being safely held. That courage doesn’t come by doing what we want to in life, it comes by laying down our hearts deepest desires and entrusting our lives to God. That courage is selfless. In Luke 9:23 Jesus tells us that anyone who wants to follow Him, needs to deny themselves daily. Each day God calls us to self-deny and step out into His abundant love. My heart’s desires will never be wholly fulfilled by Gollum, they can only truely be fulfilled by God. Jesus died for us and His death broke the chains that the enemy holds us captive by. Our brokenness can be exchanged for God’s wholeness, that is where our courage comes from and it is what works to destroy temptations. If we self-deny and die to ourselves, then we become dead to the brokenness that keeps us from breaking free, we become dead to what wants to kill and destroy us; I am able to break free from Gollum, the one who has relentlessly been trying to kill and destroy me. It’s a spiritual battle, I remember saying that to T when she came to visit me on the MH ward last year; the journey I’m on is a deep spiritual battle and the victory can only come from God – I need to self-deny and vulnerably surrender unto Him, I need to allow myself to be safely held.. daily.

Facing trauma is hard, it’s indescribable and it physically hurts my heart; it crushes and wrecks me. But God is showing me that I don’t need to run from my suffering, I don’t need to retreat into my safely trapped – I instead need to embrace my suffering because it causes me to run into God’s abundant love where I am safely held. God loves us beyond measure and His love is abundantly enough. Jesus is abundantly enough. I can only hope that one day I will grow to realise that I will never lose love and that I don’t need to earn it either. I can only hope as well that one day I will reach a point where being safely held becomes habitual, where I no longer feel the need to seek security amidst my safely trapped.

– c (22.03.2021)

held brokenness .

The week we leave behind has been reffered to as one of the hardest weeks I have faced, however that’s not entirely true. You see, I have faced many hard weeks before but what set this week apart is that it’s difficulties have stemmed directly from progress. Allow me to explain it to you the way E explained it to me.. Prior to recent weeks, I used to face hard weeks by utilising unheathy coping mechanisms; Gollum’s behaviours such as over exercising, self harm, sad music and other behaviours that fueled the self destruction. In hindsight, those unhealthy coping mechanisms, unhealthy behaviours, were never a long term fix. I am able to sit here now and looking back on this past week or even the week prior, I can in all honesty say that God is good. Yes, my week was beyond hard but I am grateful because the reason it was significantly harder is as a direct result of progress. You see, what E showed me is that instead of engaging with those unhealthy behaviours as I have in the past, I chose to primarily sit with the hardness and the fact that I had to feel the emotions is what made it so much harder. I want to pause there and clarify something; just because I chose to primarily sit with the hard emotions, it does not mean I did not engage with any of those unhealthy behaviours. I’ll admit that the fact that I was unable to completley stop myself from engaging in any of my default/unhealthy behaviours as coping mechanisms, caused an upheavel of self-hate and frustration.. Why couldn’t I be stronger? Why wasn’t my renewed relationship with God enough to stop me? Why do I keep failing? Why was I not good enough? Etc etc. And as the week continued and other failed aspects of my life arose, I found myself more regularly spiralling down an all too familiar rabbit hole. It wasn’t until Thursday, when T challenged my thinking, that I paused long enough for God to pull me out of that rabbit hole of self-hate and frustration. T raised the point that despite how hard things may have been lately, there has still been immense progress and she challenged me to document that.

Tonight I sat by the riverside and my time there was consciously shared between only God and myself, just Him and I. I packed a picnic basket with my journal and bible study things, I grabbed a blanket, a pillow and a fortisip before setting off to have dinner with God. A bit cheesy right? Probably somewhere between cheddar and mozzerella, but nevertheless tonight was easily one of my most favourite nights. Driving out to the river, I prayed; I prayed that God would go before me and prepare the way, I prayed that He would open my heart to recieve His love and His peace, I prayed that I would be open to hearing what He had to say, I prayed that God would meet me there and that our time together would be blessed. Those prayers were answered, from the most simple change in atmosphere to the deepest change within me, God answered my prayers. I arrived and the cloudy skies had opened and revealed a sunset that mirrored over the waters – God had gone before me and prepared the way. Upon reading my heart was opened, I heard God and was emersed in His love and peace – prayers answered.

I continued reading ‘The Way of Abundance’ by Ann Voskamp and where I read tonight, she wrote that ‘what feels like a great faliure on earth may be revealed as a great success in heaven, this changes everything on the hard days’. She is right, the knowledge and understanding of that does change everything on the hard days. God doesn’t see me as a faliure everytime I see myself as a faliure. In fact I think that often God celebrates my faliures because they deepen my need for Him and they cause me to lean into His strength as I allow myself to be held by Him. I look back on last year and I truely wonder how I thought I could face all those hard, hard weeks without God? I allowed the bricks I built around my heart to fool me into thinking I was alone but I see now that I never was alone, I may have felt alone but I wasn’t – God was always, always there.. holding me in my brokenness.

Life has a habit of dismembering us, breaking us beyond recognition and causing us to feel hopeless. But the key in this is to hold onto hope in God, even after we’ve lost our naïvete – we are born naïve to the brutailty of this world and somewhere along the way we are exposed to that brutailty and our hearts begin to dismember. Ann Voskamp puts forth the idea that when we find oursleves dis-membered by lifes hardships, there are moments that have the ability to re-member us; moments that can put the broken parts and members of our hearts back together. I reflected upon this by the river tonight and God placed on my heart memories of those moments; moments where through others, He undoubtedly held me within my brokenness – these are the moments that help re-member my brokenness and that make God intimately present to me. God showed me that throughout my hardest weeks last year, He was holding me and that in Him my brokenness was gracefully held. The week leading to the 19th of March, the day I had planned to die, R held me in the back of my Jeep – God was there, He held my brokenness. On the 10th of June, the morning of my overdose, T held me on her office floor – God was there, He held my deepest brokenness. I felt overwhelmed by God’s unconditional love tonight as He revealed to me how held I was in those moments where I was most dis-membered. There God re-membered me and even though time has passed, when I now recall moments like those with R and T, they work to re-member me time and time again as they water seeds of hope in God. It’s no secret that the enemy tries to steal our hope as we are dis-membered by lifes hardships but if we choose to, we can turn to God and find ourselves held amidst our brokenness and re-membered by moments that make God intimately present to us.

But what do we do when the weeks are hard and we don’t feel held? It can be hard to hold on when we don’t feel held.. however I think this is where faith comes in; with the decision to hold on regardless of whether or not we feel held. We are able to do this becuase we know that the Prince of Peace is the true perfector of our faith, we can hold on because our God can always be counted on, we can hold onto His promises and let go into His plan for our lives. I’ve found that amidst the hard weeks lately, I have had to hold onto God’s promise that all things will work together for the good of those who love Him and I’ve had to rest in the knowledge that He has a plan and a purpose for my life – this hasn’t been easy but I’ve learned to surrender wholly unto Him. Ann Voskamp ended her excerpt by relating back to a moment where her daughter asked to be held by her and as she held her daughter, her daughter asked if she could hold her in return and in the same way that her daughter held her, so we are able to hold onto God becuase He is holding onto us. God is always holding onto us, we can rest assured that we are held within our brokenness and we can in faith hold onto Him in return.

I choose now to hold onto God, to hold onto His unconditional love and His promises, instead of holding onto my ‘faliures’ and unhealthy coping mechanisms. I too choose to document and celebrate my progress, no matter how small or insignificant. I saw E and S yesterday and as T had also said, so they reminded me that progress is still progress even if it’s not perfect. My week was hard but I didn’t hurt myself, it’s been 18 days since I last hurt myself but that was once within the last 45 days – this shows progress. I was able to step back and acknowledge that I have been especially hard on myself and that it hasn’t been fair to be so mean to myself based on unrealistic expectations – this insight shows progress. As a church we have been fasting for 2 weeks and have used this time to draw nearer to God. I remember a rainy afternoon last year where T told me to listen to worship songs and that God would speak to me through them, when I told her I couldn’t and she said that she knew I didn’t feel worthy of listening to worship songs but that it wasn’t true and that in God’s eyes I was worthy. For a long time after that day I still couldn’t really bring myself to listen to worships songs and in church I felt that I couldn’t take part in worship either. However the Sunday that God took my bricks away changed that, since then I have known beyond a shadow of doubt that I am worthy of listening to worships songs. However I still found myself time and time again defaulting to listening to sad songs that fueled my self destruction and made my hard weeks harder. It’s day 13 of the fast and each day I have made the decsion to listen only to worship songs – as insignificant or silly as it may sound, I chose to fast sad songs because that was the first thing God placed on my heart and leading up to the fast no matter how hard I prayed for other ideas, that was the only idea God gave me. I didn’t realise that something so simple and easily done by others, that is listening to worship songs, could present itself as so challenging for me. It really hasn’t been easy because amidst all the hardships and times I have felt like a faliure this week, it was often hard to feel worthy of listening to worship songs – but I did it anyway and God met me there each time, this shows progress. Yesterday I ran 4km but allowed myself to walk the last 2km – this may once again seem insignificant, but it still shows progress and tonight I didn’t even exercise despite having a not very good food day.

Another point of progress tonight, probably the hugest point of progress, is that I had dinner with God. For the first time in weeks, I sat down and I prayed over my fortisip – not just a superficial prayer of thanks, but a deeply felt prayer that God would bless my intake, that it would not cause me harm and that entrusting God with it would remove fear. And you know what? It worked! I was able to drink the full, non-diluted, non-tipped out, non-manipulated fortisip and it stayed inside my body completely, this too shows progress. I didn’t do anything to counteract tonight’s fortisip (ie. run, throw up or use laxatives), instead I allowed myself to trust that God would let it nourish my body as opposed to harm it. Let’s be honest though, after the awful day I had today, I could have tipped it out and nobody would have known or questioned it.. I was alone and I had full control over whether or not I’d do the right thing. Heck, the temptation was strong but my faith in God was stronger and dinner was a success – not because I was being monitored or forced by someone else, but because for once God was in control; not myself and not Gollum. In saying this, I’m not oblivious to the fact that every other meal time going forward may not be as successful as tonight’s, but I’m not going to allow the inevitable future to take away from tonight’s progress. Each day is new and separate from the last, just because tomorrow may not be perfect it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to celebrate tonight. Gollum would disagree because the concept of celebrating or being proud of myself for making progress, is still quite foreign but that’s also okay.

There is progress and I am held within my brokenness.

One day at a time.

– c x

fearfully and wonderfully made .

‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ – the title of my latest and final journal.

On Sunday the 31st of January I started what I believe to be my final journal for this season in my life, though in saying that, I can’t be sure that I won’t continue writing or that the season will end when the journal does. Yet nonetheless, would you believe me if I told you that I started my latest journal before completely ending my previous one? You’d be right to assume that my OCD did not handle it well.. even though my previous journal only had 4 or 5 pages left, but if there was ever a reason to break my rules, it’s this. The news that I’m here to share is reason enough to break my rules because it’s already broken chains and whether or not you go on to perceive it as life changing, your perception won’t change the fact that it’s changed my life; changed my heart. And frankly, what better title than ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’? I’ll tell you now, if I had a penny for every time I have heard this truth, even simply over the last year alone, I’d have enough pennies to buy an island. Okay.. maybe a bit of an over exaggeration but you get the picture; I’ve heard it a lot. T for one, has reminded me that I’ve been fearfully and wonderfully made countless of times – in fact out of almost everything she’s told me, this has stood out the most. But I’m learning that hearing it, knowing it and believing it are all seperate entities. I’ve heard it said before that if you’re told something over and over again, that that something can often lose its value – dare I say, that’s not the case here. Though I’ll admit I lost sight of what it means to be fearfully and wonderfully made, or perhaps I never had insight to begin with. However over these last few days, my eyes have been opened to the depth and weight that this very truth carries.

It would be superficial for me to continue delivering my exciting and life changing news without first pausing to acknowledge that all that I’m about to share, vulnerably and ever so truely comes from my heart. So in saying that, it would be fair to also share a warning that my heart often goes ‘blah’ – as T so honestly stated last week but I also think she was right when she said she’d prefer that I speak from my heart because honestly, that’s where the raw and authentic stuff is.. right? I suppose the foreword that I’m trying to lay forth, is that because what I’m about to share comes from the heart and because I’ll also be the first to admit that my ‘starved brain’ is somewhat still starved, the things I write stand a good chance of coming out in a somewhat inarticulate form. Here I ask only for your patience and grace.

So without further a-due, I just want to put it out there that the overarching message I want to share is that.. GOD IS GOOD.. Do you hear me? GOD. IS. GOOD! Full stop. Period. The End. He is good! *feel free to insert a little girls squeal here and a whole lot of ecstatic tears*.

I feel that almost similarly to ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, the statement that ‘God is good’, is also so often thrown around that I think we can sometimes lose sight of its weight. However, I stand here today and can in full honesty tell you that the depth and weight of that statement is deeper and heavier than any of us can ever dare to fathom. This is coming from someone who walked away and gave up on God entirely, who couldn’t pray or open His word for the longest of time, who cried angrily at the mention of His name and who dare I say resented Him for not being there when He was most needed.. Coming from me, I can truely vouch for His goodness and the sound truth that He as always there.. Ahh I’m feeling all the warm fuzzy feelings as I write this… but in all seriousness, if there’s anything that you take away today then let it be the knowledge that God is truely truly good!

Back in October I returned my heart to God, it wasn’t a decision I took lightly and as much as I’d love to tell you that I came ‘so naturally’ and ‘easily’ (as all the ‘ideal’ Christians would say), the truth is that it didn’t come naturally or easily.. in fact it was hard and it required a heck of a lot of blind faith which is something I was drastically lacking. It required prayer.. that was something I was shockingly out of my depth in and frankly I’m still struggling to pray but there’s a verse T passed on to me.. Isaiah 65:24; “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear”… God knew my heart and He knows it still, that’s all that matters. Giving my heart back to Him also required humility and vulnerability.. it meant opening my very closed heart and entering into Gods throne room, full well shamefully knowing, that I didn’t deserve to be in His presence. But you know what? I had to realise that it didn’t matter if I felt undeserving, I mean yeah I was undeserving but that has never stopped God from loving me unconditionally regardless of my worth and it never stopped Jesus from giving His life for me. Giving my heart back to God wasn’t easy but it’s proved to be ever so worth it, over and over again it’s proven worth it.

In my drafts folder there’s a post titled ‘solar systems’. To be frank, there’s many posts sitting there.. unfinished and awaiting the time and attention required for their finalisation. And then there’s me, lacking the drive or motivation to battle my thoughts into words. I’ll be honest, as excited as I am about all I have to share in this post.. I am also exhausted at the mere thought of it. It’s taken me a week to draft, compile, categorise and make sense of how to navigate this post – it’s content subjects are huge, the days leading to this post have been huge and full disclosure, these last few months have been monumentally huge. Yet I feel that this post is something I will appreciate looking back on in future years, as a survivor, a writer, a daughter of man and King, a sister, a friend and a ‘fiercely independent young woman’, as T phrased it last week. I will live to be these things because my life and it’s quality has been robbed from me for long enough, it’s time to start fully recovering and for the first time I see a small bit of hope – or a ship rather, as R worded it on Sunday! There is hope for my future, Jeremiah 29:11.

A large part of what I’d like to discuss today is the dreaded, and I truely mean dreaded, concepts of boundaries, relationships and boundaries within relationships. All topics of which are equally as important as they are painful. T would understand this notion.

‘Relationships are precious and I need to protect this relationship, there needs to be mutual respect and boundaries’.

– T (2020)

Let’s unpack that for a moment, unpacking T’s statement is something I’ve had to do regularly over the last few months. ‘Relationships are precious‘; mine with her, mine with mom, mine with friends, mine with family – all relationships are precious. ‘I need to protect this relationship‘; relationships that are precious, are worth fighting for and they deserve to be protected at all costs – protection ensures the relationship stands a better chance of being successful and long lasting. ‘There needs to be mutual respect‘; respect for each other, respect for limitations, capacities.. and yes, respect for boundaries. *a very huge sigh on my part and I’m confident there would be potential eye rolling or laughter from T, for she knows how greatly I love this next one..* ‘Boundaries‘; what I’m lead to believe is most likely one of the most vital aspects of a relationship, any relationship.

Relationships, whilst they are precious, they can also be hard. I’ve struggled with relationships for as long as I can remember and if you were to ask someone for their professional opinion, they’d tell you at a lot of my struggles stem from PTSD which is a leading cause of my EUPD. I have been so deeply hurt within relationships that I now sit waiting for the worst in each of my relationships, I’m pessimistically always expecting and preparing myself that ‘today is the day they walk away’, or ‘today they’ll realise I’m not worthy of their love or relationship’. Not the most positive light in which to live but dare I say the safest? I chuckle here because I’m reminded of a conversation that T and I recently had where she was trying to convince me that I couldn’t go through life without trusting other people and building relationships, to everything she reasoned with me over, I simply responded by telling her that it was safer to be alone without forming relationships.

I suppose you could say that relationships are a bit like onions, they have various layers of vulnerability and the level of vulnerability is dependant upon the type of relationship. Some relationships, like those with most colleagues or friends, may only remove the first layer. Where as other relationships, such as ones with your nearest and dearest may peel back all the layers down to the core. Our relationship with God on the other hand may fluctuate between vulnerability and layers because, as I’m sure we’ve all done before within relationships, sometimes we build little walls or obstacles that help our layers grow back or prevent our layers/bricks from diminishing.

Taking it back now to my drafted post titled ‘solar systems’. The concept of this post came about on the 12th of November, 2020. I’d been to see T that day and the dreaded, and I truely mean dreaded, topics of boundaries and relationships came to the table. On a piece of paper T drew a large circle, that circle she said was the sun and that was me. Around the sun she drew stars which varied in size and each star represented a relationship in my life, sized depending upon value or significance. The very first star she drew was large and a line connected it to the sun, this relationship she deemed as the most important and that was my relationship with God. She went on to draw stars to represent my relationship with herself, family, dear friends and even members of my treating team. T explained to me that I have a solar system full of relationships and that none of those relationships will look the same, but that the concept of requiring healthy boundaries pertained to each of them.

{Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” ~ God is always there}

This conversation was similarly revisited last week when T and so sat down for the first time since changes were unwillingly made to our relationship. It’s certainly no secret, that the circumstances that have unfolded between T and myself over these last few weeks, has hurt more than I ever could have imagined. Yet despite the deep pain, I’ve grown and learned so much more than I would have if things between us had remained comfortably the same – as T herself said, I needed to experience that uncomfortable heartache in order to know she isn’t going anywhere. I left T last week slightly more hopeful and with my mind set on improving the relationship I had with her.. I thought I had everything worked out and in my defence I did. At least I did until I saw a bush in the carpark outside her practice…

Allow me to explain, so back in November when we delved deeper into discussing relationships and the boundaries within them, T drew me that picture. On my way home I stopped to place the picture in a bush and I took a photo of it. I didn’t give it another thought until last week and when I saw that bush, it was as if for the first time in forever, God had opened my eyes. Everything was suddenly so vividly clear… it wasn’t so much my relationship with T that I needed to first and foremost work on, it was my relationship with God!

I’m conscious of the fact that that realisation may come across and somewhat dismissive towards my other relationships, but all I can do is assure you that that’s not the case here. I acknowledge that it is still vitally important that I actively work hard on improving and strengthening my relationships with people like T, or my mom, or R etc. But first and foremost, it is my relationship with God that takes priority because without that relationship, no others hold genuinity.

I wholeheartedly believe that if I am able to grow closer to God, stand firm in my faith, improve and actively invest in my relationship with God; that all good will flow from that and result in an overall improvement within my life. I believe that my other relationships will strengthen and grow. I believe that I will begin to find my worth in God and as a result I will begin to realise that this life is not what He had planned for me. I believe that I will further heal from my past and from my illnesses. I believe that God will take up soo much room that Gollum will slowly diminish. I believe that as my relationship with God is restored, that my heart and mind will be made new in Him.

Sitting and crying in the carpark outside of T’s practice, seeing that bush, was the first moment where God took one of my bricks away. And you know what? As uncomfortable and as terrifying as that was.. I was still okay and I felt a peace that I was safe.

My heart has many bricks around it and as I said a little earlier, sometimes we build walls around our hearts so that when we enter into relationships, we are safe from any potential heartache and vulnerability. For years and years I have added brick, upon brick, upon brick. And don’t get me wrong, there have been moments (very few but nonetheless) , where God has ever so gently removed a brick or two. But never have I allowed for Him to take too many because they were my bricks and I needed them to be safe, I made them and they were mine.

I’m aware of the fact that by now I’m sounding like a bit of a two year old who doesn’t want to share their lego, but I suppose to an extent I am Gods child and I quite frankly don’t want to share my bricks. I mean who does? Sharing my bricks means vulnerably exposing myself bit by bit, allowing myself to be raw and authentic. Uncomfortable, right?

It wasn’t until last Sunday that I consciously allowed for God to take all my bricks, stripping me back; raw, vulnerable, exposed and in need of Him. I remember that morning in church so clearly, all the affirmations of God’s love, all the healing and peace. There was such a peace, one like none I’ve ever felt before. I mean imagine being so raw, so vulnerably exposed but not being fearful? If you know me, then you KNOW how fearful I would be. I’ve honestly spent my whole life running from vulnerability, it gives me the heebie-jeebies. Yet standing there in church, eyes closed; it was simply myself and God – no one but us and His wraparound peace. I remember feeling super uncomfortable as God took my bricks, there were times where I didn’t like it and wanted to snatch them back, but I kept talking to God through the process and I let them go. For the first time, I let them all go. I wasn’t afraid.

Fear has always kept me bound in chains. It’s the fear of being hurt, the fear of being alone, the fear of loss, the fear of exposure, the fear of abandonment. It’s fear that prevents me from bravely forming and investing in relationships. It’s fear that prevents me from fully giving my life into Gods hands, surrendering full control.

{letting bricks go, the way petals fall ~ though probably not as gracefully at times.. “to behold the beauty of the Lord” ; psalm 27:4}

Brace yourself for these next few paragraphs because honestly, it takes my breath away each time I recall God taking my bricks.. One by one, until none were left..

My first bricks were taken in the carpark by T’s practice that Thursday when I saw that bush, there God challenged my thinking and revealed to me that His relationship comes first. Then came the unraveling on Sunday, brick after brick. During the prayer meeting before church, someone shared a word stemming from Psalm 37:5 that they believed God needed someone in the house to hear.. “In an act of complete surrender, give total control of your life over to God and watch how things fall into place for the glory of His name”. Wow, okay God.. I hear you! They went on to share that “Trusting God means letting go of fear, it means fully and wholly leaning on Him, laying helplessly at the feet of the cross, it means knowing that He is there, that He is a good good Father, that He has given everything for us and that we are held in His hands”. Ah I hear you Lord! Would you believe me if I told you that on Thursday T made a statement that similarly reminded me that God is the one I should lean on and rely on, His relationship is constant and never changes. Then came another word during the service from Psalm 46:10, we were told.. “God wants someone here to know that all they need to do in this moment is to be still and know that He is God”. Okay God.. I am still, I hear you! From my heart I began speaking to God, not really knowing how to pray but rather just saying what my heart was feeling; asking first and foremost for God to just hold me. In that moment the songs lyrics sang.. “The atmosphere is changing now, for the spirit of the Lord is here, the evidence is all around, that the spirit of the Lord is here, overflow in this place, fill our hearts with your love, your love surrounds us, you’re the reason we came, to encounter your love”. OKAY GOD, I HEAR YOU!

I just want to pause there and unpack those lyrics.. I mean first of all; virtually as I am speaking to God and asking Him to hold me, to help me open myself up to receiving and feeling the full depth of His love, it was declared that the atmosphere had changed as the Holy Spirit surrounded us. This was the defining moment where I truely felt God wraparound peace. It was declared that God’s love was filling our hearts and surrounding us, this was and still is something I have been praying for because how am I to love others if God’s love isn’t within me? As little A so gently once told me that Jesus had given her His love, so she wanted to give others that same love – this principle is still valid and always will be. ‘You’re the reason we came’… As these words were sung, yet another brick was taken as God challenged my intentions for going to church. He so uncomfortably questioned why I was there week after week, who was I going for? I felt a wave of guilt because I knew I couldn’t honestly answer ‘God’. The truth is that as soon as I entered the church carpark, I’d already begun looking for signs that T was there and in the wait for church to begin I held hope that she would come because each week she was there, I knew I was safe. Last Sunday she wasn’t there, but you know what? God challenged my intentions and opened my eyes to the fact that I was still safe, even without T. God showed me again that my relationship with Him should come first, He should be the one I lean on, He should be my safety. I now look forward to church because I know I am safe regardless of who attends, I look forward to sitting with T and simply being with her rather than relying on her, I look forward to encountering Gods love and deepening my relationship with Him.

Okay, back to more bricks being taken away.. golly God really went at it during church and in the week since – He has since proceeded to dig around in old suitcases within my hearts dark corners to find and take more bricks! During the sermon it was said that, ‘When two people marry they each leave aspects of their old lives as individuals behind, as they grow together and learn to navigate a new way of living’. This was likened to our relationship with God, TR during communion reminded us that we as a church are God’s bride. As we enter into relationship with God, we leave behind aspects of our individual lives; whether that be how we used to make our own decisions, our sense of control, our mindset that we need to accomplish things on our own, that we need to be strong within ourselves etc. Upon entering that relationship and becoming one with God, we surrender and allow Him complete control over each area of our lives, we allow our walls to fall.. or in my case I allow my bricks to be taken. We begin navigating a new way of living where decisions are prayerfully made with Gods guidance, where God is in control, where we know we don’t need to face things alone and where we are able to rely fully on God.

I left church for the first time last Sunday with a hope, a hope that maybe there is more to life than this and maybe T was right all along.. maybe God had never left me and His heart did ache for me. I felt hope. I feel hope.

But it doesn’t end there! My heart and life was renewed last Sunday but the days that followed were some of the hardest. The attacks from the enemy were brutal and my newfound faith was genuinely put to the test. I failed at times, where I forgot to pray and turn to God first but that didn’t mean God gave up on me and it sure as heck didn’t mean I was a failure. In those times God would just gently remind me of His presence, that He was there and that I could lean on and turn to Him first and foremost. On Thursday I hit the epitome of the attacks from the enemy. Following on from a traumatic morning I found myself walking along the side of the highway and with every passing road train, all I heard were voices screaming for me to step just an inch to my right because then it would all be over. I stepped, I really did. And as I stepped, above every raging voice and emotion inside of me; it was God’s love that pierced through. In that very moment when I stepped, I knew without a doubt that I was held in God’s hands; I was worth more than I could fathom and that this was not his plan for me. My body instantaneously jerked back off the road, my hands were trembling, my heart was racing and I wasn’t sure I could breathe. You’d think that then and there I turned immediately to God in prayer? Wrong, I can humbly admit that I am only human and that after more than a year of God not being my first point of contact, it will take some time to change old habits. So I found myself scrambling for my phone, in a messy state like none before. I began reaching out to people who were safe.. first R and then T but as I was dialling T, God once again opened my eyes. As unlikely and unbelievable as it was, on the second dial tone of T’s number, TC drove past me and pulled over. I ended my call to T before she could answer and realised how deeply God loved me because the very chance of TC driving past me was less than one in a billion. For the last 12years TC has been the closest thing to a second mom for me and for longer than that she has been one of T’s close friends. She prayed for me and I realised that the one I needed most was God. We parted ways and for the hour or so to follow, I found myself praying and speaking to God nonstop whilst I navigated my way safely back into town and home again. The events that led to me recklessly dissociating on the side of the highway are events I am not willing to relive, they were more traumatic and heart breaking than I’d care to acknowledge. I don’t have words and I know it’s unhealthy to suppress it but I can’t face it just yet. I can say though, that above all else God is still good. Additionally, I am learning that I will never be able to control what happens to me, I will never be able to control what others choose to say or do to me and as much as it can hurt me, tear me apart and break me down; it will never take away God’s unconditional love for me.

{isaiah 41:10-13 ~ do not fear. If you know me, you know that the blue butterfly has a deep symbolism in relation to the journey I’m amidst ~ in God I find my wings, my freedom and I will overcome these battles}

Saturday, seven days later, was another particularly difficult day but also a day that gives me goosebumps as I think about it. I had only gotten to sleep 4am that morning and was overly tired when my alarm went off at 5am to go for a run. Any other day I would have forced myself to stand up but that day I woke with the taste of blood in my mouth and a body aching so terribly that I remained in bed. My emotions were particularly deep and the voices in my head were particularly loud throughout the day but that didn’t stop God from loving me and reminding me of His love. The first reminder came when I checked my emails to find an email from church; they had announced the due beginning of a new series called ‘Not Afraid’.. perfectly fitting right? I mean considering I’m in a vulnerable state of surrender and so strongly under attack! But get this, the opening verse was Isaiah 41:10; “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”. Yes God, again I HEAR YOU!!! Would you believe me if I told you that that exact verse preludes Isaiah 41:13, the verse so deeply valued and meaningful that it is written permanently on my right hand? Would you believe me if I told you that that exact verse was painted for me by TC for my birthday and now hangs on the wall in my room? If that isn’t enough.. then would you believe me if I told you that when a dear friend prayed for me that night, she asked God to give her a verse to send to me and the verse she sent was Isaiah 41:10-13… Eeeekk, just let that sink in for a moment! Oh God, I HEAR YOU!

God has been faithful to me, all my life He has been faithful; as a child and a young adult, during trauma or heartbreak, during joy and blessings, when I walked away from Him and doubted so deeply.. and especially over these last few days. For the first time, God’s love for me has been so clear and tangible.

The tangibility of God’s love is something that I have wrestled with. I am such a visual and textile person; seeing and feeling. Throughout discussions with my therapist and counsellor, I’ve come to understand that seeing/experiencing things is what makes them tangible. I’ve also come to realise that I am someone who alongside tangibility, speaks a love language that encompasses physical touch; a held hand or the deep pressure of a hug. The Friday post my last Thursday with T and preceding my transformative Sunday, I approached my counsellor, E, with the request to work on understanding and navigating relationships in hope of improving and developing healthier ones in my life. The following week she came back to me with her thoughts and knowledge she’d acquired over many years of study and research. We discussed the concept of attachment in relationships. I’ll attempt to explain it the way she did, baring in mind that her brain is nourished and has been exposed to this for a long time; mine, neither. E explained to me that as an infant we develop core senses of attachment based on circumstances we are exposed to, these are then enhanced by traumas or significant events that take place as we grow. There are 4 types of attachment in relationships; secure, avoidant, anxious, disorganised. We discovered that I inhibit the latter; disorganised. Disorganised attachment doesn’t refer to having a messy life or not having all your ducks in a row – my OCD ensures that I am quite the opposite in that regard. Having a disorganised attachment tendency simply means that dependant upon the relationship in question, you can fluctuate between secure, avoidant and anxious. My case may vary when the EUPD is taken into consideration as well. I won’t give you a full seminar but I do want to put into perspective how each attachment type influences my relationships – baring in mind that relationships can vary from with myself, with loved ones, with strangers, with myself, with food and even with God. In my case secure attachment in relationships is where my EUPD has no say, here I am not fearful of losing that relationship and there is a sound sense of security – I don’t have this yet but I am quickly developing a stronger sense of security in my relationship with T and I hope to gain this same security across more relationships. An avoidant sense of attachment is one of the more likely attachments you’ll find in my life, here I avoid forming and investing in relationships; especially those that show potential for becoming deep and meaningful – it goes without saying that these tendencies stem directly from trauma, patterns of abandonment throughout my life and deep rooted fears. The anxious sense of attachment is strongly linked to the EUPD, here I am forever looking for signs that the relationship in question is about to end, I am overly insecure and always wondering if today is the day that the person I love dearly will leave; it may also look like me sabotaging the relationship so that the person has reason to walk away before I get hurt – this stems primarily from the belief that I am not good enough or worthy of relationships.

I don’t have answers but I am working to gain insight into how to go forward in terms of navigating my relationships, as well as ensuring they are healthy. My relationships right now are not all healthy, especially the relationships I have with myself, with mom, with Gollum and yes, with T (that one was a hard one to come to terms with acknowledging). My relationship with God aside, the one thing all the others have in common is the concept of tangibility. Lets look at my relationship with T as an example; I’m choosing this one because it’s been the strongest relationship and because despite me having given T every reason and opportunity to walk away, she has made it clear that she isn’t going anywhere and she has loved me despite it all – my relationship with her may very well be one of the first relationships to healthily become secure. Anyway, I stated before that when it comes to tangibility in relationships, seeing and feeling are two huge aspects. Drawing comparisons between my relationship with God and my relationship with T paint a clear example of the differences in tangibility. I’d like to pause here and note that I am in no way comparing T to God, her and I have actually had this conversation recently and what I say next simply reiterates a few of the points made. In my relationship with T, I am able to see her, I am able to see what she has done for me and I am able to see how deeply she cares – where I have struggled to see, others have seen for me. In my relationship with T, I have been able to feel her love, I have been able to feel her hand all the times she’s held mine, I’ve been able to feel that deep pressure when she’s held me and I’ve been able to feel the sense of safety when being with her. E made a statement that revealed that every tangible aspect of my relationship with T, both seeing and feeling, are aspects that I so deeply needed or longed for as an infant, child and young adult – especially as those senses of attachments were made and cemented during traumas. Though this doesn’t justify why for example I’ve often gone to T before going to God, I think it to some degree provides insight into why I have struggled so much with relationships; in particularly my relationship with God.

Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen”. My relationship with God ultimately is going to require a heck of a lot of faith. All my life I have hoped for the sense of security that I have in my relationship with T, to gain that in my relationship with God I will need faith. Where I am unable to see or feel in my relationship with God, I will need yet more faith. I told R the other day that it’s almost as if God gave me that sense of security with T, that secure attachment in our relationship, so that I am able to fearlessly step back a bit from her and focus fully on my relationship with Him. I think for a long time that because of how tangible and deeply valued my relationship with T was, I have always been fearful that if distance were to come between us then I’d lose her indefinitely. However circling back to boundaries, as my GP in this season I am coming to terms with the fact that there will be distance as our relationship right now looks vastly different to the relationship we will have as friends in the future. As we discussed this last week, she told me once again that she isn’t going anywhere, that she’d be that safe relationship where we would be able to work through things together without any hindering fears and where I could always come back knowing she isn’t going anywhere – she has said this many times before but it was only that Thursday where I really wholly and fully believed her for the first time; that sense of belief and security surpassed all feelings of doubt and unworthiness, it came from God.

I am unable to tie this post off with a neat bow because frankly this chapter is unfinished, it’s merely beginning but I couldn’t wait until the end to share it. I tossed the idea of waiting until tomorrow evening so I could have more time to reflect on church – tomorrow we begin a new series which I believe is perfectly in Gods timing. However, if I were to wait and wait, then I’d be waiting forever. My heart is so filled with unfamiliar feelings of joy and hope. I feel like a child who has just received the greatest gift and in a sense I am that child.

I’d like to disclose the fact that despite all this exciting, hopeful and life altering news.. I am still only a human who is living with the reality of a deep depression and a raging (emphasis on raging) eating disorder. Though I believe wholeheartedly that as my relationship with God deepens I will find my worth and things like recovery will become easier, I am also very conscious that this won’t happen over night. There will still be hard days and there may still be relapses – heck, it’s not a case of snapping our fingers and it’s over because if it was then there wouldn’t be such a dire need for God. In all honesty, if the last week has taught me anything, it’s that the path that lies ahead will be a battle but the difference now, is that I know I am not entering the battlefield alone.

{I smile for my joy comes from the Lord ~ Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forever more”}

I am God’s daughter. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am loved. I have entered into a new relationship with God. My eyes have been open and my bricks have been taken. I am raw. I am vulnerable. I am exposed. I am safe. I am held. I am in surrender. God is in control – watch as my life begins to reflect His glory.

C, xo .

*A hugely deep appreciation for the love and support that each of you have blessed me with*

bracing for impact .

“You’re going to crash”

The week before last, I sat down with T and my psychiatrist, S, and heard those words; “You’re going to crash.” No one in the room was surprised. You see, this last week was one of the hardest weeks I’ve faced and we knew it would be. As we approached the first anniversary of a trauma, my team gathered around me in support the week prior.

In the context of progression toward recovery, S often refers to me as being in the drivers seat – essentially in control of my own recovery, the speed at which we drive, whether we go forwards or backwards, left or right. You get the point. As the driver, she said it’s my responsibility to ensure that I am aware of my surroundings, that I am able to accept that the ride won’t always be smooth and that there will be occasions where the crash is unavoidable. In times where the crash is unavoidable, I was told that those times are when we need to acknowledge it and brace for the inevitable impact.

My question was how? How do I brace for impact?

When cars are manufactured, they are fitted with airbags. I needed to ensure that I had a series of airbags around me so that when I inevitably crashed, I’d be safely surrounded and at lesser risk of destruction. The three of us brainstormed and set in place airbags. Airbags came in the form of positive coping mechanisms/strategies, daily appointments, having people lined up who were willing to check in with me, activities like going for coffee or a bushwalk on the day to keep me occupied, visualising a safe space in my mind where I could go to escape when things became overwhelming, a safety plan for mum to follow if need be and many more things.

At last, after crying the whole of Sunday, Monday came and I finally crashed. The airbags protected me from the impact until late in the evening but not all of the airbags were effective. Realistically we knew that some would fail which is why we created a vast variety.

The crash was brutal. It’s now four days post the crash and I don’t remember clearly how the events of the crash took place. I do know that sitting here now, my thighs from my knees up to my hips, are both wrapped in bandages and padding. I know that I am fighting nasty infections and facing a potential need for skin grafts. I know that when T saw my thighs, she cried and I know that the nurse she called did too. I know that I have had and will continue to have daily trips to my GP’s practice where the nurses will address the wounds, whilst T squeezes my hands at my bedside. I know that this time the dissociation got the better of me and though I was numb in the moment, I now feel everything so deeply. I know that my crash was brutal but I also know that that’s okay. I know that my family still love me. I know that my team is still there for me. I know that no one hates me or is disappointed in me and though it was really bad, I know it could have been worse; we all anticipated that it would be worse.

Life is full of bumps and crashes, some are avoidable and others are inevitable. Despite the brutal crash and the harm done to my thighs, my team have expressed their pride in the progress I’ve made. It could have been worse, I could have regressed in all areas but it wasn’t, and I didn’t. God is still good.

– c x

where i am vs where He meets me .

116 days ago I hit my rock bottom and 112 days ago, my last blog post revealed that I was still very much there. To bring you up to speed on the last few months there’s two things I will say; firstly, that the majority of these last few months have been spent solely in hospital and secondly, that I am still safely trapped within my rock bottom. Most likely not the responses you’d hoped to have heard but to be frank, these last few months have been a different kind of difficult and I have lost so much. I’ve lost hope, faith, time and loved ones, I’ve lost interest in the things I used to love, I’ve lost connections, I’ve lost the things that help my heart and my body function, I’ve lost conciseness at times, I’ve lost any will to live or fight, I’ve lost myself and so many things to my eating disorder and my depression; to Gollum. Oh how I wish I could regain some of those things..

If I were to be cliche I would state that life this year has been a rollercoaster and if I were to continue that cliche, I would describe the trajectory of that rollercoaster and going steeply downward – this would be fact. It’s not up until this past month or so where the rollercoaster has begun to slowly ascend. However for every one step forward, we receive three steps backwards but in saying that, I think the very fact that there have been steps forward shows progress nonetheless.

Bringing things back to my last blog post in July. The post touched on an afternoon when T came to visit me in hospital and an article she sent me. On that particular afternoon we were sitting down and she asked me how my faith was going. Upon bursting into tears I told her that I wasn’t sure where God was and that I didn’t feel His presence, I told her that I didn’t feel worthy of His forgiveness or grace. She asked me why I couldn’t just ‘surrender and let God love me?’ My response in short was that I didn’t deserve God’s love but the reasonings to follow were in hindsight reasonings in defence of my eating disorder. Each time T and I have had conversations surrounding my faith and surrendering, or allowing God to love me, I have listed off a series of reasons that I thought justified my fears and my shame but in reality it was only ever a series of excuses for holding onto Gollum. Gollum replaced God in my life and that’s a scary thing to admit. Somewhere along the line my anger towards God for ‘not protecting me during the traumas’ or ‘not looking out for me each time I was hurt’ or ‘for allowing bad things to happen to me’, that anger turned me towards a mindset that made me believe that God was never there but that Gollum was. Too often I would cry and scream at God, pleading with Hum until one day I gave up and stopped. In my heart I believed that Gollum ‘kept me safely trapped’, that he ‘stayed by my side and never left me alone’, that he ‘didn’t walk away like everyone else’, that he ‘understood me and loved me’.. You get the picture – a very distorted and backward mindset that I to this day struggle with. I find that I’ve been so angry at God. I’ve turned my back on Him and I’ve tried so hard to convince myself that it didn’t matter if I’d lost my faith and that God Himself wasn’t real. For most of this year I have lived a life separate to God and I quite frankly haven’t wanted anything to do with Him – I’m ashamed about this but it’s the truth. Throughout this last year of turning from God, I haven’t been able to escape from Him completely. Of course my family and the people I love are all in a relationship with God. People like mom, T, R and J have all continued to plant small seeds of faith and never gave up hope that I would one day return to my very own relationship with God. Aside from the connection to God through people, I’ve also remained going to church whenever I could and that’s a weird concept for someone who has been trying to escape and hide from God’s presence. Last week T asked me why I still went to church with her even if I didn’t believe and if I didn’t feel anything? Honestly, I had to think about that for a while but then I realised that maybe I still went because that was the only way for me to subconsciously hold onto a thread of hope that maybe I hadn’t completely lost my faith or my relationship with God? As I write that sentence I can hear T’s voice telling me over and over again that I haven’t ever lost my faith and that God has never left.

On that afternoon with T, I told her that surrendering to God and allowing Him to love me would mean that I’d have to surrender full control over this journey. She told me that in a sense that meant I would have to let go of Gollum and up until this point, the idea of losing Gollum and gaining God has seemed unattainable and quite frankly repulsive. I haven’t been able to think of anything worse, anything more scary or more unfathomable. After all, for so long now I’ve thought that Gollum has kept me safe, that he’s been a constant who hasn’t left me. I’ve been wrong. It wasn’t Gollum who kept my heart beating every time the doctors thought it would stop, it wasn’t Gollum who brought me back when I lost consciousness, it wasn’t Gollum who kept my body functioning when it was barely hanging on by a thread – there are many more examples but the point it that it was never Gollum – it was always God. God wasn’t the enemy, Gollum was but it’s taken me far too long to see that and somedays I still can’t see it clearly.

Over the last month I’ve felt that I’m approaching a point where this self destructive lifestyle isn’t maintainable and I’m realising that I can’t do this forever; living life on the brink of death, in and out of hospital and just waiting for death to arrive, isn’t in and of itself living. Gollum hasn’t brought me long-lasting fulfilment. Yes, there are moments where I find myself content within him but honestly, the 70+ kilos I’ve lost, the life I’ve lost and everything Gollum has brought destruction to, hasn’t been worth it. There has to be more to life than this, there has to be purpose and everyone I love and respect has told me there is. This can’t be the life God planned for me. I don’t want to send across false hope because as ready as I am to begin fighting, I’m still in reality very unwell and I’m still very deep within my depression and eating disorder. My body is still barely functioning and my weight is still dropping but I’m taking baby steps at a time. Realistically there will be a sixth and many more admissions but the difference this time is that those admissions won’t be because I’ve given up, they’ll be because my body needs a boost and they’ll be a part of my recovery. As dark as things are right now, for the first time I see a bit of hope that maybe just maybe there is a way out of this and maybe just maybe God is still on my side.

I’ve decided to continue taking baby steps, to work openly and honestly with those around me and to try and fix my relationship with God – none of these I take lightly. I don’t know what these feelings mean and I don’t know if God wants me back, but I do know that I want my relationship with God back and I do know that without a shadow of doubt, I can’t continue this long journey without Him.

Where I am is exactly where He meets me.

– c x

untitled – part two .

“You’re going home today!”. On the thirtieth of December, my face lit up as I heard those four words. It was day eleven of my first admission for ‘severe Anorexia Nervosa’. Little did I know that six months later I would be amidst my third admission, only this time those four words would not come on day eleven, nor would it come for many days to pass. It’s day twelve today; day twelve since my overdose, day twelve since admission. Day twelve and every day from here on out is breaking new ground and building a new timeframe for my ‘longest admission’. Full disclosure, this is not the ground I’d planned to be breaking, mind you; it’s either this ground or the ground they break to lower my coffin – so day twelve of admission it is.

The last twelve days have seen many things and have brought to me many emotions; overwhelmed would be the first and foremost. The environment within I stay houses many people, I am in the acute psychiatric wing and the secure wing is only separated by a wall. Most often the alarms go off two to three times a day and all available staff run to the secure wing, quite the scary ordeal. It’s not uncommon to hear banging and yelling either. On the acute wing there are currently six other inpatients and each battling their own struggles; I won’t lie it is a scary scary place to be and I remain primarily within the four walls of my room. My days themselves are very much the same. In the mornings I wake between six and seven. The first thing I do is go to the bathroom, leaving the door ajar for my 1:1, I then get dressed and ready for the day. Upon finishing in the bathroom I switch off the light and close the door, I fold my clothes and pack them away in the cupboard that’s bolted to the floor and then I make my bed for the day. My bed too is bolted to the floor, as is everything else in this sterile room. Nurse change over for the mornings take place between seven and seven thirty. Once the change over has taken place I am introduced to my morning nurse who is often a now familiar face and always female. I then ask to retrieve my phone from the communal charging room, as chargers are not allowed in the living courters. My phone is either brought to me by a nurse who was free or my nurse wheels me down in a wheelchair to retrieve it myself; I am still on bedrest. Mornings often begin busy and slow down again after breakfast. Breakfast is at the standard eight o’clock and mine is always; three weetbix, one cup of ‘full cream’ milk and a compact protein drink. The anxiety around breakfast is far less than my other meals as it is the only non-solid meal which is easier to stomach and it is also the same every day. During the half an hour prior to breakfast my nurse completes the bulk of the daily tests. First I am wheeled down to the examination room where I lay with my top half bare on the bed as a daily ECG is conducted, these are most often ‘abnormal’ due to the effect my eating disorder has had on my heart. Next I am given my medication which is a series of vitamins, minerals, thymine and phosphate etc. My blood work is done next, as is my first set of visual obs for the day. Every four hours my blood pressure is taken, lying first before standing for five minutes and taking it again; the five minute wait allows the drs to see if I have a postural drop between my lying and standing, by right there should be no drop after the five minutes however mine often still drops drastically. My blood sugar levels are tested two hours prior and post every meal, this is much less frequent than during the first ten days of re-feeding. Morning tea is served at ten and for that all I’m required to consume is a compact protein drink, the same goes for afternoon tea at three. Lunch and dinner are much the same, served at twelve and five thirty is a cooked meal of some sort; these I am yet to finish, when unable to finish them I am required to consume a compact protein drink. During the weeks my days are often filled with visits from health professionals; Mondays I see my dietician, Tuesdays I see my OT, Wednesdays I see a team of Psychiatrists, Thursdays is my scary review days where I meet with everyone and plans are revisited, Fridays I see the doctors and then weekends there is a rest period. Between meals and visits, I am often either sleeping, reading or writing. Nurses change over between one and three in the afternoon, then again at nine thirty in the evening. I have been blessed with lovely nurses and a number of them are Christians, God has used two in particular who have taken on a motherlike role and really ministered into my life; reminding me of who God says I am and sharing His love with me.

It’s been six days since I hit my rock bottom and in all honesty, I’m still very much there. Allow me to explain. If you’ve read my post prior to this one, you’d know that on Tuesday the sixteenth I found myself realising God’s love for me and surrendering this season unto Him, inviting Him back into my heart. The only problem being, it’s now six days later and I still haven’t let go or opened the door of my heart. I’m still very much stuck amidst my rock bottom. I discussed this with mom earlier today and through a series of events I’ve realised that I’ll remain stuck until I am able to vulnerably let go. Last night T forwarded me a devotion that was written by the CEO of RZIM, you can read it here. Within the article the author wrote; “My dad was a magical storyteller, using story to illustrate even the most complex truths so that they could be held. But he applied the story differently that night, suggesting that perhaps we don’t feel free to love God if we’re holding something back from him. And in that moment, I knew that I was. I was holding back surrender, and I was afraid if I surrendered I would lose something that mattered to me. But that night, I surrendered completely. I flew home the next day; a friend saw me soon after I returned and immediately asked me what had happened to me. It was visible, and it was visceral. My act of surrender created space for me to accept that God loved me, and then because He first loved me, I fell deeply in love with him. That changed everything for me, and in ways I never imagined.” As I read those words I knew exactly why T has thought to share it with me. I recalled when she’d told me that maybe I needed to simply let God love me, but that to do so maybe I’d need to be vulnerable and that in and of itself was scary. Recovery and losing control was also scary, still is. You see, I identify with the author of the article because I too, find myself holding back from full surrender in a fear of losing my control over this season. Now I know what you are thinking, my mom made it loud and clear this morning when we spoke; I do not have control, Gollum does, I know this yet I am afraid to allow God to take control. I have been so resistant in allowing God to love me because I have not been able to love myself, I have not deemed myself as worthy of love but perhaps the key is in the vulnerability of surrender? My mom made a statement in saying that the battle of healing over my life is a battle that is fought spiritually, my illness stems from within me; its a battlefield of the mind, over my heart and my faith. Satan has fought for me to think nothing of myself, he has won and I have treated myself so horribly for so long; I’ve allowed myself to lose my faith and delve wholly into my illness. Healing comes from God and I am in dire need of healing; spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. God’s word tells us that our battles are fought through prayer and thanksgiving; God is waiting to fight my battle yet all this time I’ve denied Him that opportunity. I told my mom and T that vulnerability is scary, healing is scary, allowing God to love me is scary. To that my mom said that yes, it is scary but there is no fear in perfect love and God Himself is perfect love. T has also said that there is no need to be fearful, God has loved me all along but it has been I who’s placed the distance between us. The article ended by saying that; “it is the love of Jesus Christ that saves us and transforms us all.”

My journey in healing will bring forth a complete transformation within me, nothing will remain as it was but it is only by the love of my Heavenly Father, attained through vulnerability and surrender. Up until the day I am able to do so, I will hence forth remain ‘stuck’ in my rock bottom.

– c x

my rock bottom .

“Your eating disorder is an addiction, it’s so intrenched and you have become a slave to it. You are a mess, but you know it’s interesting with addictions that you have to hit rock bottom before you can want to get better and I don’t know what rock bottom looks like for you but I do know that God is looking out for you.” – T

The quote above was said to me on the seventh of April, two thousand and twenty. Little did I know that exactly seventy days later, I would at last be stripped bare; defenceless and alone, having lost everything and being left staring my rock bottom face to face. It’s been well over a year since my journey with Gollum began and we are nearly thirty two weeks into my recovery. Over the last seven months there have been many things that have happened, but it wasn’t until these last eighteen hours; exactly one week since my overdose and on the seventh day of my third admission for ‘severe anorexia nervosa’, that I realised I’d finally come face to face with my rock bottom.

I don’t feel that it would be fair of me to label these past seven months as part of my recovery, because yes I have been seeing T and getting help, but my heart has never been in it. I’ve spent the last seven months politely complying but not actually following along or working with my team, instead I’ve spent the last seven months hoping my eating disorder would kill me sooner rather than later. As I write this now, I still don’t know if I’m ready to get better but I can now acknowledge that I am in fact sick and I do need to try do something about it. There have been many instances along this journey where I have thought to myself; “Surely this is it, surely it can’t get worse than this”. Yet each time I was so drastically proven wrong. I used to think my rock bottom would come in the form of something dramatic and that I would suddenly open my eyes and be forced to realise that I need to get better. I was wrong. My rock bottom wasn’t again attempting suicide in the beginning of December, my rock bottom wasn’t planning my third and final attempt for the nineteenth of March, heck, my rock bottom wasn’t even overdosing a week ago. Many things have taken place but none of them have been my rock bottom, none of them have made me realise that I need to and maybe even want to get better. My rock bottom isn’t an event or a place, my rock bottom is a realisation that I am worth the fight. My rock bottom came on a night in hospital when I was at my lowest and despite being alone I realised how truely loved I am by people like my mom, T, and R, who all pray for me and care for me no matter what I put them through; then realising that God loves me so much more and if each of them think I am worth the fight, then maybe, just maybe, I am.

In the early days when I began seeing T, she told me that I won’t get better until I address my incredibly low self-esteem, she said she can see that I think nothing of myself and for that, she blamed the traumas. In knowing that learning to love myself would only come from healing which in turn meant confronting my past, I decided it would be easier to remain safely trapped within my eating disorder. Somewhere along the way Gollum took total control. I found myself becoming so intertwined with my eating disorder that it became impossible for me to tell the two of us apart and even more impossible to understand how others could tell us apart. When Gollum was bad, I felt that I was bad and no-one could help me see otherwise. Many times I was fearful that because I was bad that maybe people like T would be disappointed in me but to that she simply said; “You’re asking me about being disappointed and my commitment to you but that does not change no matter what you do, this relationship is not dependable upon your actions and it might sometimes feel like I’m not on your side but I’m not on Gollum’s side and sometimes you can’t see the difference”. Time and time again Tania would say that she sees less and less of ‘C’ each week and the one week she made it clear that she wasn’t going to let Gollum take all of me; that she had to look out for ‘C’ which meant if I ever felt that she’d let me down or done something that I didn’t like, it was because she refused to agree with my eating disorder. I’ll tell you now, there have been many of those times where I have cried and felt so frustrated and betrayed. Yet each time I came out the other side and was able to see that everything my people have done, really has been for me and its like Tania said; “I am on your side otherwise I wouldn’t be bothering, and bothering is much harder than not bothering”. If the people in my corner could be bothered fighting for me then maybe I was worth the fight.

I remember the first time I truely felt betrayed in this journey, I’d gotten home one Friday night to find out that J had spoken to my mom about my eating disorder and suicidal ideations. I remember being so upset when my mom told me she had booked a doctors appointment for me the following Tuesday, I drove down to the beach in the dark where I cried. J rang me and I went over to her home and cried with her on the couch late into the night. Even in that first moment of feeling betrayed, I am able to look back and so clearly see that J’s decision to speak to my mom was out of love. There would later be more of these moments where I felt frustrated or betrayed with the people I love; like when J sent T my blog and ruined my suicide plans, or when T began forcing me to see ‘the team’, or even just the betrayal I felt when my mom forced me to go and see T for the first time which has turned out to be the best decision anyone could have made. Most recently on Saturday night I felt so deeply betrayed by T for allowing me to be locked up in the psychiatric ward, I felt that she’d abandoned me and I was so upset. I was speaking to R about it and her response was simply; “T loves you very much my dear, she just wants to see you healthy again, physically, mentally and emotionally”. She was right but you see, Gollum doesn’t want me to get better and as T once put it; he talks to me in my head, the voices and he makes me think that I’m not sick and that I don’t need to get better. This is an ongoing battle, every moment of every day. “Don’t eat that, you’re already disgusting”, “Do you know how many calories was in that grape?”, “Just run another kilometre, it’s not too far”, “If you don’t throw up, you’ll live to regret it”, “Maybe you should just kill yourself?” and the words I repeat to myself each time I run, “You’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re gross”. Gollum would constantly feed me his version of encouragements and each would counteract the truths that people like my mom, R, T and J would tell me. It was his word against theirs and because I couldn’t tell myself apart from Gollum, I held onto my false truths and in most cases, I still do. Whether I was in or out of hospital, Gollum always helped me find ways to hide food, manipulate the numbers, force myself to throw up and so much more. Once everyone had left, he was still there. He brought out the worst of me and because we were one and the same, I only grew to hate myself more and more.

It was only at the end of May, a mere month ago, when I first thought quietly to myself; “I am well in over my head”. I found myself disappointed when I realised that I actually felt a sense of accomplishment every time Gollum achieved something in my life. A sense of accomplishment in the fact that I’d found efficient ways to skip breakfast and/or lunch almost every day for weeks on end. A sense of accomplishment that I’d developed a well functioning set of strategies to allow for instant throwing up after each meal, as opposed to that dreaded thirty minute wait. A sense of accomplishment post cleaning up after myself as to not leave a trace of evidence. A sense of accomplishment in knowing that I was able to run everyday without suspicion and in turn in was able to see those numbers drop on the scale. A sense of accomplishment in knowing that though those numbers were definite cause for admission, I was able to once again purchase and hide weights within my clothing for my weekly weigh-ins (not that I ever had the chance). A sense of accomplishment each time I gave the same old speech and my mom reinforced her trust in me, this is one that broke my heart. A sense of accomplishment after each deed was done, just that small taste of control in knowing that I have the upper hand. A sense of accomplishment in buying oversized jumpers and clothing to hide my body as new bones became visible under my skin. A sense of accomplishment, one after the other. These senses of accomplishment were all prideful and sneaky. They didn’t belong to C, they didn’t belong to me at all. That afternoon I had a moment of clarity where I realised that those emotions of accomplishment belonged to my eating disorder, they belonged to Gollum and he wanted me to think that they belonged to me. I remember feeling sick to my stomach when I realised that Tania had been right all along; Gollum had taken over and I was no longer in control. I was well in over my head, however it wasn’t until just last week that I voiced that to T.

R, being the beautiful friend she is, helped me realise that lying wasn’t the right thing to do. I remember being so ready to try my best to lie to T, I’d rehearsed my biggest lie to date and I’d planned out how I’d create a believable story over the weeks to come. Fortunately for everyone other than Gollum, lying to T has never been my strong suit. The same afternoon on which I’d realised how deep in over my head I was, had shared with R about my deceitful plans and where I was at. Her response was as close to perfect as you could get but over the coming days I would argue with her profusely over the decisions that were to be made surrounding; honesty and transparency. R shared with me that she thought T hadn’t done anything to deserve a lie, that T in fact deserved the truth and honestly, she was right. R then proceeded to tell me that it broke her heart to hear where I was at and that lying would only continue to rob me of the life and joy that I deserve; “you are worth so much more than this, honestly my dear you are”. Her words sparked within me so many questions.. What was this life? What was this joy? What is my worth? I remember one night in December, whilst T was in Sydney and still checking in with me daily leading to my first admission, she told me to “hang in there because life is worth living, even though it doesn’t feel like it”. I didn’t understand it at the time and the truth is, I still don’t think I understand but maybe one day I will. I had a similar encounter with one of my nurse’s in ED last week, she caught me alone as I was about to be moved and said; “fight as hard as you can, I’ve been where you are and life is so worth it in the end”. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt as if my life hasn’t been worth living. If I were to think that my life was worth living then that would in turn mean that I’d have to think that I held worth, which I don’t. Over the years my self worth has diminished, the traumas as some would say, have been at the centre of it all. I have thought nothing of myself, I haven’t liked myself. T said to me once; “The traumas are not your fault, they were not in your control. You have been traumatised and you changed after that trauma. You became insecure, unhappy, you didn’t like yourself anymore. That trauma changed you as a person and to me it all comes down to that but it doesn’t mean there’s no hope C, you can fully recover”. I am yet to discover what recovery looks like and I am yet to find that hope because deep down, I still don’t like myself. I find that I’ve taken on the labels that others had given me, I’ve believed nothing more than the worst about myself and I’ve allowed for my depression and eating disorder continue clinging to and feeding off of each phrase and name I’ve received. As far as my self worth has gone, it’s been “non existent”, as I described it to my nurse when asked the other night. I have not wanted to get better because I have not deemed myself as worthy of getting better. As T once told me; “That is the essence of it all my dear.. you don’t think you’re worth it, you don’t think you’re worth anything.. but I do”. My self worth is yet another ongoing battle.

I spent Saturday through to Monday wallowing in my deep depression and showing no interest in living, I would later hear from my mom that upon leaving the hospital on Saturday night my dad had told her that he doesn’t think that I want to live anymore. For the first time my dad was right. A few months ago T had asked me where I saw myself ten years down the track and without a moment of hesitation I answered with “six feet under”. That was the truth. I really didn’t believe I would make it out on the other side of this season and in some cases, I’m really still not sure. Saturday night was one of the hardest nights, I cried and cried because all I wanted was to die. I from then on tried to push everyone away. I forced myself to remain angry at people like my mom and T who had done nothing but love and care for me because it was easier to be angry at them, then it was to be honest with myself about why I am here; I’m sick. I allowed myself to stay safely trapped in my depression and I felt like I’d given up hope. I didn’t see a reason to fight because I felt that every time I’ve fought this far, it’s never been good enough. I never felt good enough. As I write those words I think back to the countless of times that T has told me that its not about being good or bad and just because my eating disorder is bad, it does not mean that I am bad. In my journal on Sunday afternoon I wrote; “I don’t want to get better, they can keep me as long as they’d like to because I don’t care anymore. I give up. I need time and space so I’ve decided to push everyone away. Both mom and T have said that no matter what, they’re not going anywhere but I’m sure if I push hard enough then they will leave. Everyone always does. I don’t deserve them or their love or their forgiveness and grace. I still don’t know where God is in all of this. For so long I’ve wanted to ask T to pray for me but I’ve been too afraid because what if she does pray? What if she’s been right all along.. what if God has always been right here? I don’t know if I’m ready to allow Him back in. For so many months my heart has been closed to God and I know it’s my fault. I know I don’t have the right to say He doesn’t care and I know I can’t ask where He’s been. Maybe one day I’ll reach a point where I am ready but not yet. My mood is low and I don’t care about anything anymore. Oh how I’d love to be six feet under, it would be so much easier than this”. It wasn’t until Tuesday night, when I came face to face with my rock bottom, that I would find out T hasn’t stopped praying for me, everyday.

“Six feet under”.. that’s the essence of my illness; death. As R once told me, death is so final. This morning my mom told me that it’s the devil who wants me to believe that death is the only way out of this season. And T has told me many times that it’s not my time to die, that God gives life and God takes life, it’s not mine to take. They’re all right. As peaceful and safe as death sounds, I’m afraid it’s not the answer. I was once told that there is a fight for my life, that God is fighting for my life. By now I rightfully should have died, whether by the hand of myself or of Gollum. Time and time again God has provided for me and spared my life. Each time I tried to end my life, He was there. When my jeep spun out on a dirt road, He was there. When I wrote my letters and began my goodbyes, He was there. When J rang T, He was there. While R and I sat in the back of my jeep talking late into the night, He was there. When I drove out to the sand patch, He was there. Each admission, He was there. All the times I’ve sobbed in T’s office, He has been there. And the hardest of them all.. even during the traumas I have to believe that, He too was there. Right there. God was right there. Everyone has been telling me the truth, I just couldn’t see it and sometimes I still can’t but in my heart of hearts I do know that God is there and that He loves me. T once told me; “This is a horrible season, the problem being you have to somewhere dig really deep down and want to get better. I still believe there is a bit of C who wants to get better because with the bible verses you quote, you do know deep down that God loves you and that He is there for you.” Oh the amount of times I have cried and cried, pleading with T to show me where God is, each time she tells me He is right here, He has never left. When I begged her to let me die she asked me what she would say to God and when I told her it didn’t matter because He doesn’t care, she simply said “well I don’t agree, I know He cares”.

Mom, T, R, J.. everyone, they’re all right. God is there. He does care. He does love me. T was right when she said His heart aches for me, that this was not His plan for me. How much more proof do I need of His love for me? God’s love was shown a few days after mom booked my first appointment with T when my mom passed the post office six times but couldn’t be bothered going in, she went in on the seventh time and by chance, after all these years the very first person she saw was T and moments later T had arranged for me to see her sooner because it was thought to be God’s will that the two of them had met the way they did. God’s love was shown each time T so patiently read my six thousand word emails and gave up hours of her time to sit with me week after week. God’s love was shown each time T messaged me to say; “Goodnight God loves you”, “God is soo good”, “Thinking so much of you, may you be blessed, trust God”, “I am the Lords hands and feet, I can only show you His love”. God’s love was shown while R and I sat on the beach after she returned from Canada, I told her the truth and she simply replied with; “I know, God already told me”. God’s love was shown through every person He has placed in my life to hold my right hand; mom, T, R, J.. the list goes on. God’s love was shown each time He proved to me that I am not alone. God’s love was shown as R checked in with me each and every day, not missing one day, since our time on the beach early in March. God’s love was shown when J sat down with my mom, or when she took me to go and see T for the first time, or when she rang T out of concern for me. Most recently God’s love was shown so vividly over the past week; between how T so deeply cared for me after the overdose and how my mom’s unconditional love allowed for complete absolution. On Tuesday night I realised that God’s love is a love that surpasses all understanding.

“For I am the Lord who takes hold of your right and and says to you; ‘Do not fear, I will help you’.” From before TC painted this verse for my birthday years ago, to each and every time people like T refer to my right hand; God has time and time again taken hold of my right hand, using the people I love to help me. My biggest fear is losing those people that I love the most because to date everyone in my life has had a tendency to leave when it gets too hard. T told me once “So you keep saying ‘when I walk away’ or ‘when R walks away’ because somehow it seems like the people that you’ve trusted in your life walk away or disappoint you or hurt you, so you’re just waiting for it to happen. And sometimes when that’s been the pattern in your life, when the people you have trusted and loved disappoint and hurt you, if you are in such a relationship again you will jeopardise that relationship so that they have a reason to walk away before you get hurt. So you will actively try to get rid of people like R or myself, subconsciously so that you don’t get hurt. But I’m not going anywhere, I will not walk away and no matter what you do, I’m here for you”. I didn’t realise how much those words would mean to me until Tuesday night when I lost T in the hospital. Time and time again R has told me that she too is not going anywhere and that she will “be by my side until the very end, whether that’s days, weeks, months or when we’re both old and grey”. My mom has told me that her “love is unconditional, that does not change and she will never stop loving me, no matter what I do”. It’s amidst moments as such where seeds of doubt are planted but I then remember T telling me to “try and hold onto the truth, don’t let the lies win”. Every day it is a battle between believing the lies or believing the truth of God’s love shown to me by the people I so dearly love.

I remember my first night in hospital last Wednesday, I was exhausted and emotional. The last thought to cross my mind was; “what if the only way for me to beat Gollum, to leave hospital and to begin healing, is for me to surrender to God?”. What a terrifying thought! One rainy day I recall something impactful that T said to me, she said; “I want to say to you that even though you don’t feel it, God loves you unconditionally. That my dear, has never changed and will never change. God doesn’t change, we change. You don’t feel that, you don’t see that and you don’t believe that at the moment but that’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person. If you believe in God then you are saved, it’s as simple as that. The fact that you are saved is stuck in cement, like one of those hand prints. You are saved C, if you were to die today, you are saved. God doesn’t change, it’s us. It’s good to hold onto that no matter how we are feeling, He doesn’t feel any different. God made you, you are special, He wants to use you. Maybe you should just let God love you, maybe that means you need to be vulnerable and that’s really scary isn’t it?”. How could I allow myself to be vulnerable before God? After everything I have done, the last thing I want is to be vulnerable before God. I wasn’t worthy of that, I didn’t consider myself as special. Yet again just last Wednesday as T held me while I cried on her office floor, she again told me that I was special. Leading me to wonder if maybe I am worth the fight.

I admit that I am so very ashamed, I carry so much guilt from this journey and as a result on the twenty seventh of February I for the first time wrote in journal that, “I give up on God”. Though if I’m honest with myself it was a handful of weeks prior to that when I first started to lose my faith. I felt so much guilt and shame, that I as a result closed my heart toward God, I pushed Him away as I did to everyone else. I was fearful in knowing I had let Him down and that I wasn’t living the life He had meant for me to live. I have been so broken, if not even I could love me then how could I expect anyone to love me, let alone my creator? There’s a verse in the bible that speaks about God being our rock and our fortress. Many references have been made toward God’s word being the foundation upon which we build our lives. What if my rock bottom was accepting that I can’t fight this alone, vulnerably surrendering to God and allowing Him to love me and to take control of my journey in this season?

I have no more excuses to use. I know that God loves me, He’s shown me that time and time again. I know that God has never left, He’s proven that over and over. Both R and T have told me to just listen to worship songs. T said she knows I don’t think that I’m worthy of listening to a worship song but that it’s so not true and that it’s irrelevant whether I feel like I’m worthy or not, because in God’s eyes I am worthy, it’s not about how I feel. My mom told me this morning that I don’t need to know how to pray, God knows my heart and He hears me anyway. TR gave me a card in church many months ago, all this time I’ve kept it in my journal and written on it were two bible verses which read; “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them” (Psalm 34:17, and “Call to me and I will answer you” (Jeremiah 33:3). T would later pass on to me Isaiah 65:24; “Before they call I will answer, while they are still speaking I will hear”. R told me to just listen to worship songs and through that T said He will speak to me. I have found myself so afraid of vulnerability and surrender before God. I’ve wondered what would happen if He couldn’t forgive me because not even I can forgive myself, though hasn’t He already forgiven me? I struggle to comprehend that because I can only imagine how deeply disappointed God has been in me but then I think back to something T once said; “I am sad for you that you are so distressed, that’s all I feel, sad for you. Disappointment does not feature, you’ll just have to believe me with that. And I think it’s the same for God. I think God despairs, He feels sad but I don’t think He is disappointed in His children. We’re not supposed to work hard for His love, God loves us therefore we want to be good”. She’s right, I do want to be good but I struggle to fight against Gollum. The idea of allowing God back into my heart and the idea venturing out into some form of recovery is so very scary. As I have said before, I am safely trapped within my eating disorder and I am comfortable amidst my depression. It is so much easier for me to remain safely trapped than it is to surrender to God and face my past. Getting better is so very scary and its hard to get better, each hour is a struggle but T is right, staying safely trapped is also very hard and its dangerous.

I think the point I am trying to make is that I am face to face with my rock bottom. It is now, on Wednesday night, that I decide to surrender to God. I am allowing myself to be vulnerable before Him. I am letting go of my control, knowing that God will be in control and He knows my story from beginning to end. Here and now I am making the decision to begin working towards healing. In saying that this is merely the beginning. I can hear T’s voice saying “we are not near to the end my dear, I can’t even see the light yet, this is a long journey and there will be times ahead where things are going to be hard and you’re going to feel like giving up” and then remembering to the rainy day she told me I must “try hold onto the truth and to not to let the lies win, fight gollum every step of the way. You are not allowed to give up on yourself, I’m not going anywhere but I’m afraid the big work will have to be done by yourself. Baby steps.”. This is not the end of my story. I know that today I feel ready to fight but I also know that tomorrow I might wake feeling hopeless. Each day will be a new day, a new opportunity to choose whether I fight against Gollum or I fight against God and against healing. I know that along this journey I will sometimes take four steps back for every one step forward but I also know that I am not alone. I have my people and now I have my God. I am worth the fight.

One day at a time.

– c x

untitled – part one .

“The end goal of your eating disorder is death”.

– T

Thursday, the eleventh of June, two thousand and twenty:

I’ll never forget the feeling that shot through my body as I stared at the piece of paper in my hand. My eyes frantically trying to follow the words on that shaking page, my body and hands were still trembling from the events of the day before. The piece of paper was my first ITO (Involuntary Inpatient Treatment Order) and in the centre it read my official diagnosis. After well over a year and after eight months since seeing T for the first time, there it was.. on paper.. in black and white. For the first time my diagnosis was real. I’d heard its name a hundred times, I’d researched it and sat through many conversations surrounding it. But not once had I ever seen it printed on a piece of paper, identified under my name.. surely this isn’t me?

Severe Anorexia Nervosa, requiring refeeding together with deliberate self harm and suicidal ideations”.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, lets take things back to Tuesday, the ninth of June, two thousand and twenty:

I’d contemplated taking this back to the third of June where admission was addressed in every second sentence, where I cried for T to give me just seven days, just one week. Or even further back to the twenty seventh of February which was one day after my second admission and also the day everything began to plummet. I could go back further and further but for the purpose of this post I will begin on last Tuesday morning.

The sun had just risen when my phone went off, I wasn’t surprised to see T’s name light up because she’d contacted me daily over the prior five days. However when I opened her message I knew what was to come; she was attempting to reschedule our session from four in the afternoon, to nine in the morning and knowing her there is only one reason for why she’d do that. Admission. We exchanged emails for two hours, dancing around what was so blatantly obvious but it wasn’t until my mom and I were having a coffee by the sea, that T bluntly said “please just come to me with a packed bag in your car at nine am, we will talk to mom later”. In all the months I’ve known her, she’s never given a straight up answer around admission until that moment. I remember my hands began shaking and my mom could see I was tense but I said nothing. I suppressed my emotions, pushed admission to the back of my mind and as the day went on, I slowly worked my way through my to do list; washing.. bathroom deep clean.. pack suitcase.. pack away embroidery things.. prepare for my brothers 16th.. etc. By four in the afternoon the self destruction came knocking. I decided to take a final trip to my bench, the same bench I’ve sat on through this season of my life. Upon arriving at the beach I was ready to breathe and reflect whilst sitting on my bench overlooking the sea. Moments later I was crying, sobbing in fact.. the one time I needed my bench the most, it was not there. It was gone as if it had never existed. My bench was gone and so was my defence against the self destruction which then took hold of the reigns. I began to run as fast as I could until I fell. I continued to throw myself down the gravel stairs that were held up by old wooden planks. I fell forward into wooden fixtures and into the branches of bushes. I needed to feel a pain that outweighed the emotional uproar inside of me. I picked up a sand covered rock and scraped it against the side of my cheek over and over until there was no more skin, proceeding to then throw it as hard as I could against my skin. It wasn’t enough, I still needed to feel. Picking up a piece of wood I’d found, broken from the stairs, I hit it against my skin until my hand was cramping from the tight grip I held it with. I then returned to my car where I sat and cried heavily before driving to an abandoned building that I sometimes visit. There I paced up and down with my hands shaking, my heart pounding and my lungs working overtime. I needed to calm down, I needed to feel more physical pain to numb my insides. I opened the boot of my car, took out an empty gin bottle and a cigarette. I proceeded to smash the glass bottle as I screamed, only to moments later cry whilst picking up the pieces. Sitting in the corner of the room with my back against the broken graffiti covered wall, I lit a cigarette and inhaled as deeply as I could, as if the smoke itself would take with it all my emotions upon my exhale. Distraught I burned my wrist over the already raw burns from before, I could feel. Driving home I practiced a smile and once I was in the bath I cut myself again and again and again. I knew this would be the last time for a while, I knew the devastation I would cause tomorrow and I needed to be punished. I was a wreck and I’ve never been more ashamed to recount my actions.

Wednesday, the tenth of June, two thousand and twenty:

My family and I woke at dawn to celebrate my brothers sixteenth birthday, the two of us took a photo together and I wished him good luck on his test. We all parted ways at quarter to eight and I embraced a final goodbye with my familiar surroundings. Hopping into my car I had an hour before I needed to meet T. I turned the sad music up as loud as I could and I drove to the beach. If I was going to spend my final quiet time anywhere, it would be over looking the sea. As the months have passed, my quiet time has become a traditional event that takes place an hour or so before any appointment with T; its my time to breathe and prepare for the standard hour or two long, emotional sessions. By the time I was parked overlooking the sea, the tears were already well and truely flowing. My body was riddled with anxiety that felt like someone holding their hands over my mouth and nose, preventing me from breathing. I was filled with sadness, shame, fear, guilt, apprehensiveness, denial, anger and so much more. I couldn’t do it anymore, I couldn’t bare to feel. I knew what laid ahead of me and I could only imagine the pain I was once again going to cause for my family. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t feel all the emotions. I thought maybe if I was numb then nothing wouldn’t matter anymore. It wouldn’t matter how my mom reacted when she found out I’d been deceiving her all this time. It wouldn’t matter how my brother would feel when he came home excited to tell me he passed his learners test and drove to school for the first time, only to find I wasn’t there. It wouldn’t matter how anyone felt and they would cry, they would feel, but at least I wouldn’t feel anything. At that moment I began to swallow all the pills that I’d accumulated over the recent months. Handful, after handful, after handful. I knew it wouldn’t kill me but I stupidly hoped that it would at least numb me.

Over the drive from the beach to T’s office, a blanket of guilt came over me. I had only ever made two promises to T. The first promise was made on the seventeenth of march, two days before I planned to commit suicide; T had found out and that day I gave her my word that I wouldn’t do it. That is one promise I’ve lived to regret. The second promise was made only recently because you see, on that seventeenth of march I also gave to T a collection of pills that I’d planned to use and a week or two ago she returned that collection to me but asked me to make a second promise; I promised I wouldn’t overdose. All these months keeping my word to T has been the only thing stopping me from ending my own life, yet there I was driving to meet her after breaking one of those promises. I suddenly wished it would kill me and my crying intensified. As it neared half past eight I was pulling into a parking behind the building. I went to reception, checked in and took a seat in my usual spot to wait out the last half an hour. I soon began feeling sick and went to the bathroom but I couldn’t throw up so I left and took a seat again. Five minutes later I found myself awkwardly walking as fast as I could to the bathroom where I began throwing up. My body began sweating and I felt so hazy. I reached behind me to grab my phone and braced myself with one hand over the sink, my back against the wall and my legs squatted beneath me. I immediately phoned T, it was quarter to nine. There was a pause between when she answered and first spoke, I could tell she was hesitant. She would later tell me that the moment she saw my name light up, her heart began to pound and she knew something was wrong. My shortness of breath must have given it away, she said my name a few times before I found the words to ask if she had arrived yet. Thankfully she was parking her car as we spoke so I managed to ask her to meet me by the bathroom. She soon after found me lying on the floor in a horrible state. She helped me to my feet and walked me to her office where she sat me down to discuss what happened. I was crying and could barely speak but explained what I’d done. She asked if I could lie on her bed but I said I needed to throw up so she gave me a bag and pointed to her sink. I couldn’t imagine myself throwing up in front of her so I fought it, but not two minutes later I was hunched over her sink while she read the letter I’d written for her. I collapsed in a heap under the sink and cried. Sobbing, my body shook while I rocked myself in a fetal position. I felt so much shame. With my voice breaking I kept asking T why she wouldn’t just let me die, I told her it wasn’t fair and begged for her to absolve me of my promise to her. T quietly left the room, closing the door behind her. As she did my mom sent me a photo of my brother who had just passed his test and received his learners, I cried even more. I would later find out about how heartbroken and angry he was when he arrived home from school to find I wasn’t there. I cried for a while longer before T returned. Upon her arrival I expected anger or frustration or anything to justify what I’d done and the things I’d said to her. The response I received was nothing in comparison; love, unconditional love, a love far beyond measure. Placing two warm cups of tea on the carpet before me, T knelt down beside me, extended her arms and softly whispered; “Come here my dear”. She set aside everything; ignoring covid, looking past the fact that I’d been throwing up and not holding against me the fact that I’d broken my promise to her by overdosing. Her love and compassion surpassed my flaws. T wrapped her arms around me and tightly held me close, with my head resting on her chest I could hear her heart beat. I was safe. I was safe. I was a mess but I was safe. I ugly cried snot and tears but T didn’t flinch once, she simply held me. As I so heavily cried in her arms, she whispered to me; “it’s going to be okay, I know you’re scared”. My breaking voice told her I was so sorry, only for her to gently tell me to stop apologising because I’m sick and have nothing to be sorry for. There was a long pause while I continued to cry and she continued to hold me close, I then quietly asked her why she stays.. “because you’re special”. Her words were soft and tender, a sense of compassion and a side of her I’d never seen, but in conversation between her and my mother it would later be revealed that she was “mom number two”. Her heart broke for me. We stayed in that position a while longer and as I cried she showed me love, forgiveness and grace. She then sat herself down next to me. The two of us drank tea and I cried while I listened to her tell me what came next. Admission.

The next fifteen minutes were a blur between being in T’s office and arriving at the hospital. At first T had phoned for an ambulance but as she was finalising the arrangements I began throwing up, sweating and hyperventilating. My body started to tremble and she said she needed to get me to hospital that minute. T then cancelled the ambulance and decided she’d drive me instead. She said it would be faster and would allow for her to stay by my side. I was grateful that I wouldn’t be alone, I was so scared. I don’t remember a lot but T led me through the back of the practice and out to her car. She helped me in and drove me to the hospital. Arriving at the hospital I felt less nauseous but overrun by fear and anxiety. I knew this time would be different. The two of us made our way from T’s car to the ED. The wait at the ED was twenty minutes and I expected that T would leave as soon as I was allowed through, but she didn’t. T came through with me and as she walked by my side I heard her say, “Oo this feels like dejavu”.. I looked up to see that the nurse before us was leading us to the exact room they led the two of us to last December. Upon arrival I was given a blue gown and asked to change out of my clothes. Everyone left the room and I took my clothes off, leaving only my bra and undies on. I was still crying and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to tie the back of the gown so I whispered for T and asked if she’d mind helping me. She came inside to help me. She saw my body. She’s never seen my body before, I’ve always worn oversized clothing to cover how gross and big I am. But there I was, standing and shaking before her, exposed. I remembered back to last week when she told me she’s noticed that my shoulder blades were sticking out more and if she could notice that under all my clothes, I could only imagine what she thought of me now. Nothing was said and as I hopped into bed, T pulled a chair up on my right hand side (Isaiah 41.13). At this point in time its nearing ten and over the next twenty minutes I had nurses rushing around me. I was hooked up to a series of cords and machines, every part of me was monitored. The head nurse asked me many questions and when I was crying too hard, T spoke for me. The nurse asked to see the areas in which I’d hurt myself. Over the last eight months T had only seen my wrist and other visible places. She had never seen my thighs, they’re the grossest part of my body and the part of my body where the men would pull me downward. I hate my thighs. T asked if she should stand outside for the examination but I asked that she stayed. As the nurse opened my thigh on the righthand side I was exposed to T, again. That day T had seen more of me than ever before; metaphorically, emotionally and physically. In tears I looked up at T, feeling so ashamed and she softly shook her head and mouthed the words; “its okay my dear, it’s okay”. The nurse left and I thought T would too. It was then quarter past ten and I was certain she had other patients to see, after all Wednesday mornings were when she was due to visit the old age homes. She stayed seated and I told her she didn’t have to stay, that she could go if she wanted to. There was a pause before she looked at me and said she knows she could go but she wanted to stay. T then took out her phone and cancelled the rest of her morning. I cried, I was so grateful that I wasn’t alone. The two of us spoke about anything, from good gin to books and everything between.

My mom arrived a while later and T had encouraged me to be honest with her. This was one of my biggest fears; mom’s heart breaking once again because of me. As mom sat down beside me, I held the tears back and told her the truth about how I’d been lying and throwing up again for months. She was fighting back the tears and there was a pause. I knew what came next. I looked up at Tania as my eyes swelled with tears. Mom asked what else I needed to say and T told me to just spit it out. The tears began flowing and I felt both of T’s hands wrap around mine. I was safe. I would be okay. I could do this. I turned to mom, told her I loved her and then told her I’d overdosed. The tears mom held back began to flow and she told me she loves me. T reassured mom that I would be okay and the three of us stayed in that little room until ten past eleven, when I was wheeled to the HDU. I was sure T would leave then but surely enough she followed along. The nurses continuously mistook T as my mom so she joked to mine that they were in a same sex marriage, we all laughed. Over the next few days I would receive many comments from nurses and strangers that highlight the abnormal relationship between T and I, comments of surprise to find out she’s my GP; one because the admission letter she wrote for me was apparently filled with love and painted a picture that only someone who knew my ins and outs could paint, another because she stayed by my side, another because they noticed how much she cares. The list goes on. HDU was more quiet than the ED and upon arriving there, T and my mom were asked to wait outside while some tests were run on me. While I was there the nurse said something I wouldn’t soon forget; “Fight as hard as you can, I’ve been where you are and life beyond recovery is so worth it”. Half an hour later they allowed T to come and say goodbye to me, it was nearing twelve and she had a patient to see. I would later find out that she was late to work because she spent forty-five minutes arranging a bed for me and making sure I would be okay and looked after. When T said goodbye, she was sorry she had to go but would be praying for me. She knew my biggest fear was losing her so she reassured me that she isn’t going anywhere and that she’d come to visit me as frequently as she could. With a hug she left and I cried. It was a while before I saw my mom again, she was waiting outside for my dad and they came in together. My dad didn’t say a word and my mom mostly cried. They stayed for a short while and then left.

I was alone in HDU up until being moved to my final room. In that time my OT and Psychiatrist had both come to see me and inform me that I would be kept under a MHA. I would later receive an ITO, alerting me that I would be unable to leave until a team of psychiatrists clear me to go. It was a lot to take in and I felt so hazy, I had no strength to argue so I simply cried. At four in the afternoon I was lead to my room. Expecting to be on the medical or surgical ward as I have been in the past, you can imagine the shock when they led me to the APW. The Acute Psychiatric Ward. Kids in primary school would have called it the loony bin. As the door to reception opened, I was greeted by my head Psychiatrist. A nurse then led me through the next set of heavy duty doors and at once I began to cry. My anxiety was intense and I was so overwhelmed. There were strange people, walking everywhere. Some sitting at a table, others playing loud music from their phones and a few watching the blaring television. I couldn’t do it. This place is a home for some people, this is what you see in the movies. This couldn’t possibly become my reality. My suitcase was sorted through before being given to me and everything with cords was removed (hair appliances and chargers), any objects that could cause harm was also removed (perfume). My room was the first on the right which would later prove helpful in convincing the head psych that my visitors (my parents and T) would be able to visit me in the privacy of my room, when usually visitors aren’t allowed past the corridor entrance. The entire ward was heavy duty and laid out like a prison. There were first the communal rooms; a quiet room, a dining room and a lounge room, a conference room, an examination room, a laundry room and a charging room. Behind all of that was a long corridor with rooms on either side. The rooms were sterile, or ‘clinical’ as T would soon describe it. My room was the total opposite to the rooms I’d been given on other wards. All the furniture was bolted down; a desk, a standing cupboard, a normal bed and a bedside table. There was no hand sanitiser on account of patients in the past drinking it. There was no clock on my wall as patients in the past had thrown it. The shower held no curtin and the bathroom, no railings. The taps had no extension and I needed help to figure out how everything worked. I was told that in the past there had been patients who ripped the railings or taps out and used it to harm themselves and others. These things shocked me, as will many things over the days to come. I felt so overwhelmed that I passed out before six.

Thursday, the eleventh of June, two thousand and twenty:

I’ll never forget the feeling that shot through my body as I stared at the piece of paper in my hand. My eyes frantically trying to follow the words on that shaking page, my body and hands were still trembling from the events of the day before. The piece of paper was my first ITO and in the centre it read my official diagnosis. After well over a year and after eight months since seeing T for the first time, there it was.. on paper.. in black and white. For the first time my diagnosis was real. I’d heard its name a hundred times, I’d researched it and sat through many conversations surrounding it. But not once had I ever seen it printed on a piece of paper, identified under my name.. surely this isn’t me?

Severe Anorexia Nervosa, requiring refeeding together with deliberate self harm and suicidal ideations”.

Reading those words felt surreal and from then until now everything’s been a roller coaster. I’ve sat through many meetings with different health professionals and it was recently established that for now my stay is a minimum of six to eight weeks. I have shed many tears and felt many emotions. I have witnessed fights and been scared out of my skin. I have had to adjust to life on the APW and to say the least, it’s been difficult. My visitors are restricted to parents only, with T as the one exception. She came to see me for little over an hour on Friday, once I’d settled in. Oh how I wished she’d take me away from here but we all know that this is where I need to be, for now. I’ve spent my days crying, reading and doing a lot of writing. I have two-hourly BSL’s, four-hourly BP’s, daily ECG’s, medication five times a day and the list goes on. I have not left my room or spoken to other people here, aside from speaking to nursing staff and leaving my room once to go to the examination room. I am on bed rest and wheelchair bound.

It’s now Saturday evening, the fourteenth of June, two thousand and twenty:

I can finally stand without my knees buckling and the shaking is almost gone. I will continue to blog and update parts as I can.

– c x

in over my head .

Yesterday afternoon I was out for my daily run and on my way back to my car, I found myself turning off th